The factory farming of salmon is threatening vulnerable seal populations in the U.K. Many common seals are suffering from a fatal disease called phocine distemper, and their population has dropped to an estimated 37,000. But that isn’t stopping fish farmers from shooting dozens of common and rarer grey seals each year.
Many of the U.K.’s independently run salmon farms employ licensed marksmen to kill the seals who are threatening their fish supply.
The business support manager of Marine Harvest Scotland, Steve Bracken, told the Independent:
In 2016, Marine Harvest Scotland shot 21 seals. While we’re disappointed and regret any increase in the numbers we are pleased there has been a substantial reduction in numbers for some years now.
While this number has decreased from more than 100 in previous years, it comes from just one of many fish farms in the U.K. According to the Seal Protection Action Group, there are fewer grey seals than African elephants, and more than 1,500 U.K. seals have been shot to protect factory-farmed fish in the past six years alone.
These seals aren’t the only marine populations the fish farming industry is wiping out. Salmon farms from Sweden to Norway and Chile are decimating wrasse populations to help combat lice on farmed salmon. Because they feed on parasites, wrasse are used as “cleaner” fish and are killed once an infestation is gone. Annual catches of wrasse by Norwegian fishing crews have risen to 22 million in less than a decade, and these depletions will have unforeseeable effects on marine ecosystems.
The fishing industry’s impact on non-target species is only part of the problem. Fish raised at factory farms endure lives of misery in crowded, waste-filled pools. A 2016 study asserts that due to stressful conditions, factory-farmed salmon can grow so depressed they become “drop outs” and essentially give up on life.
And their miserable lives often end with horrific deaths. This Mercy For Animals investigation clearly shows the suffering many fish endure in their final moments.
Keeping fish off your plate is the best way to protect vulnerable marine ecosystems and end support of a cruel industry.
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