Salmon is a delicacy and a favourite food of many people, whether in the form of salmon steaks and fillets, smoked salmon or grilled salmon. Salmon is also healthy because it contains protein, omega 3 fatty acids and vitamin D. Therefore demand for salmon is high. However numbers of salmon in the wild are fast decreasing due to overfishing, environmental pollution and habitat loss. Salmon farming, a multimillion dollar industry has been seen as a solution to this problem.
Salmon fish farms help meet the demand for salmon, alleviate food shortages and also reduce pressure upon wild fish populations. Salmon farming also provides employment to the local population and helps in the economic development of rural areas. Salmon exports also bring much revenue to the regions where fish are farmed. Salmon fish farms generally take two forms. The first form is a land based salmon farm, where salmon are reared in inland tanks and enclosures. The other form of salmon farming is an ocean farm, where salmon are reared in enclosures such as cages or net pens in the ocean close to the coast. The most common type of salmon raised in fish farms is the Atlantic salmon.
Even though the salmon farming industry serves many useful functions, many issues have been raised by environmentalists against the farming of salmon. These include the contamination of sea water due to excess feed, spread of parasites such as sea lice from farm raised salmon to wild populations, overcrowding of salmon in fish farms, the problems to the natural ecosystem caused by escape of farm raised salmon into streams and rivers, and lastly the higher levels of toxins such as mercury and PCB’s often seen in farm raised salmon. Stricter regulations, control and monitoring by the salmon farming industry and salmon farmers working together with environmental organizations and researchers has alleviated many of these problems. Much progress has been made in the field of sustainable salmon farming that aims to have minimal negative impact on the environment.