[env-trinity] CBB: Study Looks At Sustainable Salmon Production, Says Salmon Fisheries Low Global Scale Impact
sari at sisqtel.net
Wed Nov 25 10:42:37 PST 2009
THE COLUMBIA BASIN BULLETIN:
Weekly Fish and Wildlife News
November 25, 2009
Issue No. 510
* Study Looks At Sustainable Salmon Production,
Says Salmon Fisheries Low Global Scale Impact
Popular thinking about how to improve food
systems for the better often misses the point,
according to the results of a three-year global
study of salmon production systems.
Rather than pushing for organic or land-based
production, or worrying about simple metrics such
as "food miles," the study finds that the world
can achieve greater environmental benefits by
focusing on improvements to key aspects of production and distribution.
For example, what farmed salmon are fed, how wild
salmon are caught and the choice to buy frozen
over fresh matters more than organic vs.
conventional or wild vs. farmed when considering
global scale environmental impacts such as
climate change, ozone depletion, loss of critical
habitat, and ocean acidification.
The study is the world's first comprehensive
global-scale look at a major food commodity from
a full life cycle perspective, and the
researchers examined everything how salmon are
caught in the wild, what they're fed when farmed,
how they're transported, how they're consumed,
and how all of this contributes to both
environmental degradation and socioeconomic benefits.
The researchers behind the study sought to
understand how the world can develop truly
sustainable food systems through the lens of
understanding the complexities associated with
wild and farmed salmon production, processing and
distribution. They found that decision-making for
food must learn to fully account for the life
cycle socioeconomic and environmental costs of
food production. How we weight the importance of
such impacts is ultimately subjective and in the
realm of policy and culture, but using a
comprehensive approach provides a more nuanced
process for informed decision-making. Even food
has a lifecycle, and the world must learn to
comprehend the full costs of it in order to
design reliable, resilient food systems to feed a
world population that's forecast to grow to 9 billion in less than 40 years.
The researchers chose salmon as their focus as it
exemplifies important characteristics of modern
food systems, yet offers unique opportunities for
comparison. It is available around the world at
any time and in any location, regardless of
season or local ecosystem, it is available in
numerous product forms, and it is distributed
using a variety of transport modes. Unlike many
other food systems, however, it is available from
both wild sources and a range of farmed production systems.
While it isn't easy to balance people, profit and
planet, the world must do much better. Food
production, in aggregate, is the single largest
source of environmental degradation globally.
Impacts vary dramatically depending on what, where and how food is produced.
For example, early results of the study found
that growing salmon in land-based farms can
increase total greenhouse gas emissions ten-fold
over conventional farming depending on how and where the farming is conducted.
Similarly, while organic farming of many crops
offers benefits over conventional production,
organic salmon production gives rise to impacts
very similar to conventional farming due to the
use of resource intensive fish meals and oils.
Beyond the farm, it's important to also consider
the total impact of food preparation. Driving to
the store alone and then cooking alone at home
has a big environmental impact. Going out to
dinner more, or just eating more frequently with
friends and family at home, has huge benefit.
For concerned consumers, it's important to think
about how food was produced and transported not
just where it was produced when making food choices.
Initial Findings from the study:
--- Fish should swim, not fly. Air-freighting
salmon, and any food, results in substantial
increases in environmental impacts. If more
frozen food were consumed, more container ships
would be used to ship food. Container ships are
by far the most efficient and carbon-friendly way
to transport food. Globally, the majority of
salmon fillets are currently consumed fresh and
never frozen. In fish-loving Japan, which gets
much of its fish by air, switching to 75 percent
frozen salmon would have more benefit than all of
Europe eating locally farmed salmon.
--- The choice to buy frozen matters more than
organic vs. conventional or wild vs. farmed.
--- A full life cycle assessment approach to
research provides a more nuanced process for
informed decision-making. Even food has a
lifecycle, and we must comprehend the full impact
to make meaningful improvements to food systems. Tradeoffs may be inevitable.
--- Contrary to what is widely perceived, the
vast majority of broad-scale resource use and
environmental impacts (energy inputs, GHG
emissions, etc) from conventional salmon farming
result from the feeds used to produce them. What
happens at or around a farm site may be important
for local ecological reasons but contributes very
little to global scale concerns such as global warming.
--- Across the globe, what is used to feed salmon
and the amounts of feeds used vary widely. As a
result, impacts are very different. Norwegian
salmon farming resulted in generally lower
overall impacts while farmed salmon production in
the UK resulted in the greatest impacts.
--- Reducing the amount of animal-derived inputs
to feeds (e.g. fish meals and oils along with
livestock derived meals) in favor of plant-based
feed inputs can markedly reduce environmental impacts.
--- Growing organic salmon using fish meals and
oils from very resource intensive fisheries
results in impacts very similar to conventional farmed salmon production.
If not planned carefully, technological fixes
aimed at addressing local environmental
challenges associated with conventional salmon
farming can result in substantial increases in
global-scale environmental impacts.
In general, salmon fisheries result in relatively
low global-scale environmental impacts.
However, substantial differences exist between
how salmon are caught. Catching salmon in large
nets as they school together has one tenth the
impact of catching them in small numbers using baited hooks and lures.
Across salmon production systems and all food
systems the world is often swimming against the
tide. Instead of working with nature, people work
against it, chasing fish in the open ocean with
big diesel engines or substituting energy
demanding pumping and water treatment for free
ecosystem services in salmon farming. We can and
must do better than this and start to swim with the tide.
The most recent published paper from the study
can be seen in the journal Environmental Science
& Technology: http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/es9010114
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