Only 50 years ago, humans started to realize that we have an effect on our planet. Since then, scientists, policymakers, NGOs and activists have been trying to push people towards change, trying to open our eyes to the fact that mother nature might not be as resilient as we think. It may have taken a while, probably a good while longer than it should have, but I think we have finally reached a point, where most people are aware of climate change. Not only are people beginning to accept that it is a problem, but many are seeking to make a difference. They are demanding that something needs to be done in order to preserve our planet. People are finally reclaiming their heritage.

We live in an age when people are willing to do their part

Just recently I watched the documentary Artifishal, which shows a startling picture of the fish farming and hatchery industry. I did not know much about either of these institutions. All I knew was that fish farming was a good idea, but difficult to scale and that farmed fish were predominately fed on fish-meal made of wild fish. But what I discovered in the film was much more sinister: It exposed an industry kept alive at astronomical costs for both, the taxpayers and the environment.

Is farmed fish better than wild fish?

Hatcheries are industrial breeding facilities, primarily for salmon. These factories artificially fertilize eggs. Once the salmon fingerlings have reached a suitable size, they are released into rivers, where they intermix with the wild population. This happens at staggering costs; the documentary quoted a startling amount of $68,000 per adult fish raised. Furthermore, in many farms fish are held in such close quarters that they are virtually stacked on top of each other. As a result, they suffer from diseases and deformities.

There have been reports of farmed fish escaping into the open ocean, where they are able to interbreed with other fish, leading to a dilution in wild genes. The film also shows an alarming decline of fish populations in rivers where hatcheries were active. Overfishing of key predatory species such as salmon have seen dramatic drops in their populations since the onset of industrial fishing. We have decided that we know better than evolution which has ensured these species’ survival for thousands of years. And – no surprise – we have once again been proven wrong: By diluting the natural wild fish stock with these antibiotic-pumped lab experiments, we have interfered with natural selection. The principal of “survival of the fittest” is no longer valid, as wild fish intermingle with genetically weaker fish, leading to a lower survivability of the species as a whole.

At the end of the day, what is an extra hour of research if we want to save the planet?

What I mean to illustrate with these examples is that we need to be extremely savvy as consumers. It is not only about good intentions, but informed ones. We have taken the first big step in the right direction, but we need to do our research: Listen to credible sources, check facts, cross-reference multiple informants. It is up to us to become critical thinkers, to question what we are being told, and to evaluate the information we are getting. Even in the case of the documentary Artifishal, it is important to understand the motive behind it. Why are they writing this? Why are they filming this? Because people will skew the facts to get their point across. The documentary is clearly biased, there will be counter-arguments from people within the fish farming and hatchery industries, some valid, others not. We may think farmed fish is better than wild fish because that’s what advertising has led us to believe. But is it true? Does it depend on the country they are farmed in? Does it depend on the species or the company? I know this means that we will all have to spend more time doing our research, but at the end of the day, what is an extra hour here and there if we want to save the planet?

Fish consumption and healthy food alternatives


Sophie Zweifel

Sophie Zweifel

Sophie Zweifel – MChem Student at the University of Edinburgh, has been supporting OceanCare for years – thank you!