Media Spin: Conservation vs. Public Health


I found this article on Reuters this morning that tries to spin old news into a fresh bit of controversy:

Doctors recommend a good dose of salmon or tuna in the diet because of its benefits to the heart. But is it good for the environment?

Surging demand for salmon in particular has been spurred in part by numerous studies touting the health benefits of omega-3 fatty acids, which are present in some kinds of fish.

A study published in June in the American Heart Association journal Circulation said a diet with liberal servings of fish, nuts and seeds rich in such nutrients can help lower a person's blood pressure. Other studies have shown benefits to eye and brain development and preventing heart disease, Alzheimer's disease and eye disorders.

Conservationists point out that while global fish stocks were getting hammered long before sushi became chic, health trends could add pressure to already vulnerable fisheries.

You could end the entire article where I emphasized. That's the issue. This has been going on for a long time, and has nothing to do with medical research or the health industry.

What should have been the focal point of the article is the fact that the historical habits of the fish industry - especially aquaculture - are quite destructive, and our marine ecosystems are suffering from farmed carnivorous fish in more ways than one:

...the decline of ocean fisheries and ecosystems can also be exacerbated by the industrial farming of carnivorous fishes such as salmon. By feeding farm salmon proteins and oils extracted from wild fish, there is a net loss of fish supply. Escaped farm salmon spread domesticated genes into wild populations and have the potential to invade and displace native wild stocks. Finally, the spread of infectious pathogens from farm to wild salmon may also threaten wild stocks. Despite decades of work, the extent and impacts of parasite transmission from farm to wild salmon have remained contentious and unresolved.

This excerpt is from a paper published last October in PNAS, analyzing certain pathogens affecting wild and farmed salmon populations. One of the pathogens, Lepeophtheirus salmonis, native sea lice, has been wreaking havoc on juvenile populations of salmon. The lice are common and generally harmless in the adults, and due to natural migratory patterns, the juveniles rarely pick it up from them.

But near salmon farms:

...wild juvenile salmon are sympatric with large abundances of domesticated salmon (and their parasites) during their early marine life. Farms provide parasites novel access to these juvenile hosts, resulting in measurable and sometimes severe impacts on salmon survival.

Big industry across the board seems to be grinding itself to a halt from overconsumption and mismanagement of their own product - fossil fuels, farming, timber, etc. If you stop by here frequently enough, you'll know that I am no alarmist, but issues like these hard to ignore, and yet little change has happened. Studies like this one should be indicators for big business, road signs for them to follow, not bullets to dodge.

Photo by: OpenCage

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