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Is aquaculture bad for the environment?

Fish farms, or “aquafarms,” discharge waste, pesticides, and other chemicals directly into ecologically fragile coastal waters, destroying local ecosystems. And aquaculture farms that raise fish directly in fenced-in areas of natural waters kill off thriving natural habitats by overloading them far beyond their capacity. Waste from the excessive number of fish can cause huge blankets of green slime on the water’s surface, depleting oxygen and killing much of the life in the water. In Brazil, destruction caused by aquaculture changed the local climate so much that some aquaculture operations have been forced to shut down.

Raising 1 ton of fish takes 8 tons of water. Intensive shrimp production takes up to 10 times more water. According to the journal Science, a 2-acre salmon farm produces as much waste as a town of 10,000 people. Salmon farms in British Columbia were found to be producing as much waste as a city of half a million people.

And while aquafarmers like to tout aquaculture as an alternative to depleting wild fish populations, many of the fish species they farm are predators, like salmon and shrimp, and are fed ocean fish. It takes 5 pounds of ocean fish to produce 1 pound of farmed fish.

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