FISH FOR OMEGA – BEYOND EXPLOITABLE LIMITS
Author: Deb Date Posted:9 May 2018
FISH FOR OMEGA: Why taking fish oil is hazardous to our environment
While Omega-3 is good for you, how does the simple act of fish pill popping impact on our natural environment?
Most people are aware they are underfeeding their bodies Omega 3. In fact, it has been described as the most serious health deficiency in the modern Western Diet. It has also been the biggest marketing campaign of a health issue, strengthened with government backing and powerful science. The result? A booming omega 3 supplement market that is expected to reach USD 57 billion by 2025.
Fish reserves pushed to exploitable limits
Competing brands are crowding the shelves of chemists and online sites promoting fish oil benefits. While this spells great news for the industry, it is a devasting projection for our wild fish reserves. The Food and Agriculture Organisation estimates 70% of the worlds fish species are depleted with only 1% of the world’s oceans covered in Marine Protected Areas. Can you imagine the adjusted statistic for depleted fish species if that included all oceans?
Fish Farms Are not the answer
It’s not just unsustainable fishing practices that are putting fish populations under unprecedented pressure - fish farms are completely unsustainable and polluting, whether the fish is destined for the table or a capsule.
There is a perception that farmed fish may be the solution to overfishing our oceans. If anything is true, it turns up the heat. Farmed fish, typically salmon, are fed wild fish (mostly anchovies and sardines), threatening the biodiversity of our oceans. It takes a lot of fish to feed fish! But it’s not just fish feed. Farmed fish are also being fed a mixture of terrestrial plants, which is good and bad. Good as full wild fish feed would see our fish reserves crumple, but bad as plants do not have the long chain omega 3 fatty acids that give salmon its health benefits. This is not just an issue pertaining to Australian fish farms. Researchers from a Stirling University 2016 study reported to the BBC that the salmon omega 3 levels in Atlantic salmon had halved compared to the previous five years, with people now needing to eat two portions of farmed salmon instead of one.
Fish get stressed out too!
Fish farms are also cruel. Safe for animals in New Zealand state that farmed fish are ‘liable to suffer high mortality rates from injury and disease’ and are vulnerable to predators, citing a 2009 incident where thousands of fish were killed when jellyfish floated into a salmon farm. In 2016 the Macquarie Harbour in Tasmania had ‘concerning temperature spikes and dangerous drops in water oxygen levels’. Fish went into survival mode and were so stressed, they stopped feeding.
Salmon are forced to swim in tightly confined pens, which is stressful and of course, completely unnatural. Cramming salmon into these pens also makes for easy transmission of parasites and diseases. To deal with this, fisheries douse their salmon with tons of antibiotics and pesticides, polluting river or sea beds beneath the farm. A predictable consequence is that people eventually ingest this smorgasbord of chemicals. Nothing escapes the food chain!
Only two months ago I took my boys for a holiday to Tasmania where we spent four amazing days at Opossum Bay, right on the Macquarie Harbour. Over two solid mornings, my son went to fulfil his boyhood dream of catching a lone fish with his grandfather. Not a nibble. The harbour appeared dead. We witnessed the migratory salmon farms with its eerie circular spikes being set up for further destruction along the river bed.
Even a World Heritage Area site isn't spared
In 2011 Tasmania’s big salmon farm players pushed to double their lease area in the Macquarie harbour which was supported by the Primary Industry minister. All parties rejected concerns that this will negatively impact on World Heritage Area. The lease expansion was approved the following year. Over the next few years, there were major environmental concerns over disease outbreaks, pollution and deteriorating water quality. Many of these complaints were lead by Huon Aquaculture and appeared to fall on deaf ears, with the EPA curiously defending Tassal’s practices. Unfortunately, Tassal whose lease area was the closest to the World Heritage Area was the biggest polluter. Finally, in March this year (2018), the head of the states Environmental Protection Authority admitted that the science behind the lease expansion was wrong. What a massive cost to such a beautiful state and harbour that is one third inside the World Heritage area.
Fish oil supplements are a problem worldwide. Most companies do not disclose the species of fish or even bother to note on their packing whether the fish has been farmed or wild caught. Some say they test for mercury, but don’t disclose the results. But the biggest issue by far with the fish oil industry is its destructive impact on our fragile marine environment. And there appears to be no end in sight to its projected economic ‘success’.
Sustainability is the only answer
If you’re interested in learning about a ray of hope for sustainable omega 3, then check out marine algae, the cleanest and greenest omega 3 on the market that doesn’t hurt one single scale on a fish’s body! It’s sustainable, heavy metal free, rich in DHA & EPA, and offers real hope to a more sustainable future for our marine environments.