Monday, March 31, 2008

The Damage Caused by Salmon Farming in Chile

Erik has written before on the collapse of salmon populations in the Pacific Northwest, but it isn't limited to there. Salmon in Chile are being devastated by a virus that has already killed millions of salmon in a country whose third-largest export is salmon. The virus has been able to spread in large part due to overproduction of salmon in Chile in what biologists consider unsanitary conditions, a general consequence of industrial-style production of fish (or other animals) for consumption. Not surprisingly, the salmon industry leaders "reject the notion that their practices are unsafe for consumers," despite the fact that they use antibiotics that are prohibited for use on animals in the United States (where 29% of Chile's salmon is sent).

And as has been the case in so many similar instances of environmental damage due to overproduction of resources, the people in the localities where the salmon are raised are the humans who suffer first. Their water is being polluted due to overproduction, damaging the water in ways not unlike monocrop agriculture, and as the companies pick up and relocate to cleaner waters (which they will inevitably pollute with overproduction once again), the Chileans in the south are left without jobs.

Nor are humans the only ones affected. The article points out that "Salmon feces and food pellets are stripping the water of oxygen, killing other marine life and spreading disease, biologists and environmentalists say. Escaped salmon are eating other fish species and have begun invading rivers and lakes as far away as neighboring Argentina, researchers say," and fishers are having a really hard time finding fish in the sea for their own consumption (on a much smaller scale). The overproduction in Chile, as in elsewhere, is causing potentially-irreparable damage to the environment, marine ecosystems, and even the local economies of southern Chile. The story here is nothing new, but it's still depressing, and it sure seems unlikely that companies will ever learn before it is too late.