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Let's Push for the End of Aquaculture Farms!

This year, the World Day for the End of Fishing proposes to organize actions targeting aquaculture farms, which are a source of intense suffering for a very large number of individuals.

What animals are involved and how many are they?

According to the Fishcount organization, between 51 and 167 billion fish are raised and killed each year in aquaculture farms – mainly carp, tilapia and catfish. In addition, 250 to 600 billion crustaceans are raised and killed each year (mainly shrimp). More than half of the shrimp and fish who are consumed worldwide come from these farms1.

In addition, 460 to 1,100 billion fish (half of which are Peruvian and Japanese anchovies) are caught at sea each year to feed aquaculture animals, after being processed into meal or oil.

These farms are responsible for the slaughter of 761 to 1,867 billion aquatic animals each year, which represents the ⅔ of all aquatic animals killed each year for human consumption (including wild-caught fish).

These numbers are immense. In comparison, according to Faunalytics, the total number of land animals killed each year is 71 billion animals (including 69 billion chickens).

Aquaculture farms are therefore responsible for a number of deaths 10 to 26 times higher than that of terrestrial animals!

Moreover, we now know that the aquatic animals affected are sentient, which means that their suffering and their lives are important to them.

It is thus a priority to care for the animals that are victims of aquaculture farms.

The ordeal of animals locked up in fish farms

The crowding of animals in aquaculture farms is becoming increasingly concentrated., all types of farms included. For example, tilapia have only 3 litres of space each in intensive farming. As for the salmon, they are packed at 50,000 individuals per 20,000 m³ cage (i.e. 2 to 3 individuals per m³)2. Under such conditions, about 15%3 die prior to reaching slaughter weight. Some salmon even perish as the result of depression-like symptoms (i.e., “drop outs”) (up to 25% of a cage)4. This mortality rate is higher than the worst of the intensive land-based farms, that of broilers, which rarely exceeds 5%5.

As for those who survive to the end, the suffering is constant. The living conditions of the animals in aquaculture farms are particularly critical. Overcrowding causes stress, frustration and aggression, and injuries are frequent. They also suffer from massive parasite infestations, serious recurrent infections, and heart malformations linked to their accelerated growth.

A violent and painful killing that can turn into torture

Most often, fish are slowly suffocated in the open air or on ice, prolonging their agony. This is the case of trout in France, for example. Many other fish are bled and eviscerated while still conscious.

In some countries, Norway in particular, prior stunning is practiced. The most reliable method according to EFSA (European Food Safety Authority) is mechanical percussion, but it is not widely practiced because of the investment required (each fish size requires a specific machine for the hammer to precisely strike at the head). Electrocution is more common, but it leaves 10% of the fish conscious (a voltage that knocks out every fish would alter the quality of the flesh). As for the saturation of water in CO₂, still practiced in some countries (such as the United Kingdom), it is considered by EFSA to be the worst method. It only immobilises the fish, who are in agony for 7 to 10 minutes, and adds CO₂ intoxication to the asphyxiation.

Let's push for the closure of aquaculture farms!

Fish farms are one of the worst horrors in the overall picture of animal exploitation. Hundreds of billions of aquatic animals live short lives of misery crowded together in submerged cages, tanks or cisterns. Some farms have as many as half a million individuals. Banning these practices would represent hundreds of billions of lives of suffering avoided every year.

If farming and consumption practices do not change, the FAO predicts an increase in production of +32% from 2018 to 2030 and expects China, the world's leading producer country, to intensify existing aquaculture farms.
How many more billions of victims?

How to take action?

Because of the current health crisis, it can be complicated to organize events that bring many people together. One mode of action that is particularly relevant in these conditions is online activism. We recommend that you share resources on the subject, for example from this list or from the general documents that were published for the 2020 edition.

The organization of conferences and online discussions is also crucial to stimulate engagement. Feel free to discuss it with us!

If you have the possibility to organize a physical event, marches or demonstrations, you can use these activism materials.

Notes

  1. FAO, The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2020, p. 77-78. 
  2. Marianne Elisabeth Lien, Becoming Salmon: Aquaculture and the Domestication of a Fish, 2015. 
  3. This is the mortality rate of salmon fattened at sea. There are no statistics available on the mortality of young salmon raised in freshwater.
    - Peter Stevenson et al., “Closed Waters: The Welfare of Farmed Atlantic Salmon, Rainbow Trout, Atlantic Cod & Atlantic Halibut”, CIWF, 2007. 
  4. Marco A. Vindas et al., “Brain Serotonergic Activation in Growth-Stunted Farmed Salmon: Adaption versus Pathology”, Royal Society Open Science 3, no 5, 2016. 
  5. It should be mentioned that chicken farming lasts less time than salmon farming. The weekly mortality rate in intensive chicken farms is 1%, which is higher than in salmon farms. PMAF, The welfare of broilers in the European Union, 2003.