Salmon is widely consumed in Europe. It is a favorite on the table in France, which imports about 70% of its need from Norway, a country that is a leader in the cultivation of this type of fish.
A few years ago, several organizations and associations pointed to alarming farming conditions, and producers were accused of polluting the oceans, with some laboratories even revealing that salmon was more toxic than nutritional.
Recently, hydroponics has become a mainstay in food products, and it may be a solution to food insecurity in the future, but it must be a safe and sustainable method for both the environment and health, and this is why there is a great debate about the impact that these farms have on the environment and health.
This documentary, broadcast by Al Jazeera, sheds light on these farms, the conditions in which salmon breed, and the extent to which this affects the environment and the quality of these fish.
The film features a number of hydroponic experts, fish farmers and toxicologists veterinarians, who have helped evaluate the new farming.
Film “On the Salmon Farm”
The 1990s, salmon invaded the French market
In French Toray, salmon occupies a major place in the restaurants of the famous chef “Eric Leute” who uses all kinds of fish, especially farmed salmon, and carefully selects his fish – especially large ones – to obtain tender and delicious steaks.
Eric says: “I care about where the fish comes from and how to feed it, and this is important to get good quality, and the more consistent the meat, the higher the quality and the taste.”
Salmon began to be presented in the markets in the early nineties, and became the best-selling fish in supermarkets, and it is presented in the form of fillets or whole fish, and it is in the vast majority of farms, but out of every ten people there are seven who have concerns and concern for their health about the source of this kind of fish.
Shop owners make every effort to obtain the best quality, inspect it, and pay attention to its source, especially those coming from Norway and Scotland. Salmon in Norway is both an economic and cultural pillar, as the country produces more than 1.2 million tons annually, of which about 95% is exported the outside.
Norway’s beaches are home to the world’s largest salmon farms
The coast of Norway… Cages teeming with millions of fish
Along the Norwegian coast there are 950 salmon farms, the most important of which is in Bergen, the second largest city in Norway. The authors of the program visited the largest salmon farm, which is a huge farm with a circumference of 120 meters, width of 40 meters and depth of 30 meters.
This farm includes one million salmon fish distributed in ten cages. The owner of the farm “Oland” says that the coast of Norway is long, and contains a number of narrow bays, and it is characterized by a healthy balance between protected areas, clean water and regular water exchange and flow, which are suitable conditions for salmon farming.
The Norwegian regulations do not allow the number of fish in one cage to exceed 200,000, so that the fish can enjoy large areas. Salmon is a social animal that lives in flocks, and is collected in cages that small fish enter, and then leave with a weight of about 6 kilograms, which is the weight required in the markets.
Food pellets and dung.. an automated system pollutes the marine environment
After mating between males and females, the eggs are collected in special ponds, and when they are a year old, they are eligible to live in the sea. They are carefully monitored through cages equipped with cameras, and food pellets are regularly scattered through fans on the surface of the water. It is an automated system that works from seven in the morning. Until five in the afternoon.
Salmon activity varies according to the temperature and the size of the fish, so when the temperature is known, the required amount of food can be determined, and the fish’s appetite is monitored with the naked eye, and spreading the appropriate amount of food is the basis for raising fish.
In the past, food granules were large in size, and many of them would sink to the bottom of the sea, causing a net loss, in addition to the accompanying pollution process, so the large granules were replaced by small granules that do not dissolve easily in water.
Holland says: To feed an animal to live, it must produce dung, and this also settles at the bottom of the sea, so there must be strict systems to monitor and control the matter, to stay within the required limits and levels.
Small size salmon food granules that do not dissolve in water easily
Consumers are interested in what salmon eats, and these granules are composed of proteins, amino acids, minerals and vitamins. Before that, salmon had been in these farms for a long time, feeding on fish oil and flour, which are from small wild fish in the ocean.
“We used to harness large quantities of fish to feed salmon, and this does not make sense, so we want to produce salmon in a sustainable way without resorting to other fish, and if we can convert non-fish raw materials into food, it will produce very healthy fish,” Holland says.
After a while, small fish were replaced by vegetable proteins and fatty acids, and the food now consists of fish flour and oils by 25%, and the rest from plant sources such as soy, seaweed and wheat. Toxic in salmon is a critical factor in this.
Malcolm Beveridge, an expert in sustainable hydroponics at the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome, says: “The pollutants come from humans’ indifference to the chemicals used over the decades. fish meat.
This phenomenon is known as bioaccumulation, as algae absorb complex organic molecules and heavy metals present in the marine ecosystem, plankton eat those algae, and then small fish eat the plankton, so farmed salmon that eat plant proteins are less polluted than wild salmon.
“We’ve made a lot of progress, but the vegetable protein must meet sustainable standards, as most of the soy is produced in South America, which puts a lot of pressure on the native forest ecosystem there,” Beveridge adds.
Plant feed may be the solution, because soy production does not require large forest areas, and the ideal goal in using vegetable proteins is that they contain as few pesticides and pollutants as possible.
Fish flour imported from Peru and Mauritania و
Excrement and leftovers
Fish droppings and feed residues are a cause for concern. They are harmful to the environment and create dead zones for marine life. Norway’s fish producers are aware of this problem. They leave aquariums empty for a while, allowing the sediments to wash away and the environment to regenerate.
One of the most important problems faced by salmon farmers in Norway is the sources of fish flour, most of which is imported from Peru and Mauritania. The problem is to transport it because they have to add the antioxidant athoxycin to the imported fish flour, which is very toxic.
Maria, an expert in salmon farming, says: Athoxycin is added because the transportation process is long, and fish flour may heat up a lot, burn or rot, as it is very rich in amino acids. And if a European law is issued to replace it with another article, we will abide by that and definitely stop it.
Storm escape.. danger to wild salmon
There is another challenge for salmon farmers in Norway, which is no less serious than the previous one. They must avoid contact between farmed salmon and wild salmon. Sometimes salmon comes out of the cage, due to storms and damaged nets.
Although there have been few escapes recorded, the Norwegian authorities take this issue very seriously, as they fear that farmed salmon will reach the rivers and breed with wild salmon. “The farmed salmon is a mixture of 40-50 strains of wild salmon, but it is genetically different sometimes, so it must be caught before reaching the rivers,” says Norwegian official, “Trud”.
Fish live in different rivers, carry different genes, and belong to different subcategories of fish, so in Norway they are keen to preserve this difference, and salmon cages are prohibited near wild salmon habitats, and another reason is that escaping fish may carry diseases , and may affect wild salmon.
Parasites such as sea lice multiply on the bodies of salmon, a problem that farmers face يواجه
Sea lice.. Fighting hidden killer parasites
Farmers face another problem that most people do not know about, which is sea lice, a species of crustaceans that lives in the sea and sticks to the body of salmon, and multiplies very quickly if there is enough fish, and these parasites live on the body of salmon for millions of years, and previously salmon fish lived in rivers and seas Today, salmon live on the beach, and this is a new situation in which it is difficult to control these parasites.
The abundance of lice may weaken the body of salmon or even kill it, and although the effect of lice on farmed salmon is small, it affects wild salmon negatively, and here it must be controlled in salmon farms.
The farms are being cleaned by placing some cleaning fish such as “lamp fish” and “cutima”, which are natural predators of parasites, and in some cases this is not a sufficient solution, as the number of lice should not exceed one for every two fish, and here farmers resort to chemicals to get rid of lice These include hydrogen peroxide, which is used in hair dyes and toothpastes.
In the case of placing a large amount of them to kill sea lice, the fish are placed in therapeutic baths or added to feed.
Malcolm Beveridge says: “It is true that hydrogen peroxide does not harm fish, but it is released into the environment, and it is a toxic substance that we do not want to be repeated often. .
And Maria adds: I think we will stop it in the coming years, which is a general trend in Norway because it is a substance that is harmful to the environment, and no one wants to use it.
Sometimes robes are placed around the nets to prevent sea lice from entering, and today they use a modern technology by firing laser beams that can detect lice in salmon and kill them, and there are other ways to avoid this problem such as spacing between cages.
Salmon farms are cleaned of parasites with “lamp fish”, which are natural predators of parasites.
Fish vaccination..a shield against viruses and bacteria
Farmers are afraid of viral and bacterial infections, so they rely on some measures in order to avoid this, such as the method of placing cages and methods of placing new fish after removing the old completely first.
But these methods sometimes are not enough, which makes the use of medicines a must. In the early nineties they used antibiotics, but today most fish are vaccinated before putting them in the sea, which allows control of most diseases and bacterial infections.
In Norway’s farms, antibiotics have not been used for years, but more studies must be done on the vaccines given to fish.
The Food Safety Authority in Norway analyzes salmon samples to determine its chemical composition, and to verify the absence of contaminants in it.
Surprising farm inspections.. compliance with EU laws
At the Norwegian Institute of Nutrition and Seafood Research in Bergen, farmed salmon is monitored by the Food Safety Authority. Inspectors go to the farms suddenly, and they take samples themselves from all ages of the fish, and 13,000 samples are analyzed to determine the chemical composition of salmon, and check for the absence of contaminants.
Although it is not a member of the European Union, Norway is obliged to abide by the maximum limits imposed by the Union, in order to be able to export salmon to its countries.
With the use of vegetable feed, the proportion of dioxons and polychlorinated vinyl decreased to 70%, which reflected a positive indicator, and the Norwegian regulations stipulate that fish should be eaten a week after taking the last dose of medication, which is a precautionary measure to not expose the consumer to any health risks. Sensitive.
Says toxicologist Dr. “Polikan”: We determine the maximum rates in Europe according to our information, but in the event of new toxicity data, they are easily reviewed, and experts and committees determine the maximum acceptable rates, according to the European Medicines Agency and the World Health Organization.
Diversifying the diet.. The lifeboat of fatty fish
In France, food is monitored, 60,000 samples are taken and the equivalent of 800,000 tests for materials combined, and the French consume a large amount of salmon, which leads us to wonder whether it is a concern. Dr. says. Polikan: How can we ensure that no one consumes more than the acceptable amount per day, this depends on the average consumption, if I am a balanced consumer, I will not exceed the specified amount per week, and there is no need to worry.
In this regard, a nutritionist, Dr. “This combination of pollutants causes an organic build-up, that is, it builds up in tissues, and this may harm some of us in the long run,” Kokol said.
But dr. “Kocol” believes that we should eat salmon, because it contains “omega-3”, which is included in the famous Mediterranean diet, and there are many studies confirming that it reduces the risk of heart disease, and has anti-inflammatory effects that help fight inflammatory diseases such as diabetes, rheumatic disorders and obesity.
One of the advantages of salmon is that it is a fatty fish that contains “omega-3”, but this is also its main drawback because the pollutant compounds are concentrated in fats in particular, and fatty fish contain more pollutants than low-fat fish.
Dr. says. Polikan said that we cannot eat fish every day, but twice a week, once fatty fish like salmon, and once low-fat like plaice, and he believes that there is no need to be afraid of buying fish, but all one has to do is diversify the diet, and this applies to all Thing.
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council Organization licenses the cultivated seafood
Food licensing.. Selecting eco-friendly products
Choosing the best eco-friendly product has become difficult, so the Aquaculture Stewardship Council licenses out seafood that has been responsibly grown, meaning to the consumer that the fish comes from an eco-friendly farm.
The social aspects include the farm workers and the people who live around it. The Supervision Center contributes to preserving this agriculture, reducing environmental and social impacts, and applying standards that guarantee product quality. Today, there are 250 licensed fish farms around the world, including 115 salmon farms, and 70% of them are located in Norway.
Maria considers production licensing in Norway to be the most comprehensive, and that its standards are more stringent than government regulations.
“Label Rouge” .. A different product fills the shelves of stores
Farmers are keen on the comfort of fish, as exhausting them reduces their growth, and thus affects the economic aspect. Maria says: The economy and the preservation of the environment go hand in hand, and unless we preserve our natural resources, we will not be able to maintain sustainable production, so producers are quick to obtain licenses because of the economic benefits.
Licensed products are gradually arriving in France, but Label Rouge products still fill supermarket shelves. Dr. says. Cocool: Behind every brand is a code of conduct and a better animal is treated, and all that effort is shown in the quality of the fish.
“Label Rouge” follows different standards for feed, and takes care of wild fish that are endangered, which makes it an interesting sign, and it is concerned with environmental standards, and the feed must be organic, and the use of organic antibiotics or pesticides is prohibited.
However, salmon farmed in polluted water will also contaminate its meat, and the presence of an organic label does not mean that all problems have been resolved, and the place where the fish is raised is an important and essential factor in this aspect. Dr. says. “Polican”: The organic label is not a guarantee of quality, it is about unapproved contaminants such as PCBs and the like.
Smoked salmon is the safest type of salmon for health
Smoking fish… the collapse of the traditional method in the age of speed
France imports 20,000 tons of smoked salmon annually, but does this process add new contaminants to the fish?
Comments Dr. Polikan answered this question, saying: The smoking process – both industrial and traditional – may generate toxic pollutants, which are aromatic hydrocarbons such as those produced by grilling on charcoal, and for the smoking process to be safe, it must be closely monitored.
Stefan Roch, a fish smoker, says: I support the traditional smoking method. oaks;
He adds: There is no problem with our ingredients, we use untreated wood, and we use cold smoking, not hot.
In his laboratory, the “Roche” salmon is subjected to secondhand smoke, as the smoke generator is placed outside while it is filtered, so this controversy is not logical, as smoked salmon in this case does not pose any danger, but not all places use the external generator method because it is expensive and takes time, Therefore, some producers resort to unconventional methods.
In order to ensure the quality of the salmon, Stefan Roach traveled to Norway. He says: It is necessary to use high quality salmon, so we visit our suppliers and try to build a trust relationship with them and see how they work. Salmon farming has developed tremendously, and the quality is improving with each new.
Matching international standards.. Norway’s leadership
The World Bank in Washington considers salmon farming in Norway a vivid example of responsible industrial management, because Norway has a leading role in this field, and it is the most developed country, and this is demonstrated by the Norwegian licensing system, as every farmer must produce a license.
The World Bank and the Food and Agriculture Fund are cooperating with several countries to standardize systems and develop better systems for farms that live in the same environment. The problem does not have to be in the farm itself, but the lack of commitment of one farmer in the surrounding environment may cause disease outbreaks and water pollution.
So there is a need for a coordinated mechanism for the exchange of information between farmers, and Norway has always been fully aware of its environment and absorption capacity, and is an active party due to the biological experience accumulated over the past forty years.
I have put aquaculture under scrutiny, because by the year 2050 the population of the earth will be nine billion, and food security will be a major challenge, at that time hydroponics may be the solution to eradicate poverty and hunger.
Fish farms are the source of 70% of the fish consumed around the world
Fish farms .. the source of two thirds of marine food production الإنتاج
Hydroponics is better than terrestrial farming. While one kilogram of feed produces one kilogram of salmon, a cow needs 8 kilograms of feed to produce 1 kilogram of meat.
Hydroponics may become the best solution in the future, but the fear is the production of genetically modified salmon, using pork or poultry feed.
“We can live without salmon farming, but will the consumer accept it? Salmon has become a common and important part of the lives of many, especially the middle class,” says Malcolm Beveridge. Without salmon farming, fish will only become the food of the rich, and it will become more expensive and scarce, because natural resources have been depleted.
Fish farming has great potential, but it is fraught with risks and requires a moral commitment and good ways to control in a sustainable and advanced way, in order to protect the environment and human health, and by 2030, marine farms will become the source of two-thirds of the marine production of our food, and the countries that decide to invest in it in more sustainable ways You will have good economic prospects.