A net at a fish factory farm in Washington failed last week, causing thousands of nonnative Atlantic salmon to get loose just off the state's northwestern San Juan Islands.
NPR reported that the farm's net pen failed when an anchor broke loose and the floating metal walkways collapsed. Those nearby said it looked like hurricane debris. There were approximately 305,000 Atlantic salmon being held in the pen.
Officials are unsure of the exact number of salmon who escaped and the reason why the pen’s anchor broke loose. Kurt Beardslee, the director of the Wild Fish Conservancy Northwest, called the incident an “environmental nightmare.”
Factory farms are filthy and overcrowded, making them the perfect breeding grounds for parasites. Last year an outbreak of sea lice occurred from Scandinavia to Chile. Now nearly half of Scotland’s salmon farms are infested with the parasite that feeds on the blood, skin, and slime of salmon.
With possibly thousands of sick Atlantic salmon swimming freely in the Pacific, this puts native species at risk. Beardslee said:
The Atlantic salmon bring with them pollution, virus and parasite amplification, and all that harms Pacific salmon and our waters of Washington. The majority of our salmon migrate through the straits when they're leaving as juveniles. You start having a viral or parasitic outbreak there, when our juvenile fish are moving through—it could be a disaster.
But disease-ridden conditions are only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the horrors of fish factory farming.
A recent study published in the Journal of Experimental Biology found that Salmon bred and raised at fish factory farms are forced to grow at such an accelerated rate that more than half of them go partially deaf. Another study found that many farmed salmon suffer from severe depression. Known as “drop outs,” depressed salmon float lifelessly in filthy tanks.
After their terrible lives at factory farms, many fish face particularly gruesome deaths. Despite fishes’ capability of feeling pain, the seafood industry treats these innocent beings as mere objects.
In 2011 Mercy For Animals conducted an undercover investigation at a fish slaughter facility and exposed fish being skinned alive. As the fish gasped for oxygen, their skin was ripped off with pliers. They thrashed and fought to escape the workers' knives.