Fish Farming Makes Diseases More Virulent

Saturday, December 26, 2009 by: E. Huff, staff writer
Tags: farmed fish, disease, health news

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(NaturalNews) A 23-year Finnish study has concluded that decades of fish farming have led to the prevalence of increasingly lethal strains of disease that thrive in an enclosed environment. Dr. Katja Pulkkinen from the University of Jyvaskyla stressed in his report that high density conditions where fish are under a lot of tension create a favorable environment for the outbreak of vicious pathogenic strains.

Columnaris disease, one such infection that destroys the skin, fins, and gills of fish, has become one of the leading causes of death among farmed fish in the U.S. The disease, caused by the bacterium Flavobacterium columnare, would normally be unable to survive out in the wild. However due to "selective pressures," farmed fish are highly susceptible to it and other virulent strains that end up costing the fish farming industry millions of dollars a year in losses.

Another factor considered by researchers is the use of the antibiotic oxytetracyclin which has led to more severe, drug-resistant strains of columnaris. Similar to human antibiotics, oxytetracyclin is helping to breed "superbugs" that are more deadly and much harder to treat. This combined with the contained fish farming environment is a recipe for disaster.

Many experts have been warning for years about the dangers of fish farming. Farmed fish are confined to artificially small environments where they eat different food and ingest higher amounts of mercury than normal.

Just like factory-raised cattle versus pastured, grass-fed cattle, factory-farmed fish are an entirely different meat than wild fish. Farmed salmon, for instance, are fed pellets rather than the plankton and smaller fish that they would in the wild. Consequently, farmed salmon contain much lower amounts of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and receive far less astaxanthin in their system. Astaxanthin is the antioxidant responsible for giving wild salmon its beautiful pink color.

Many stores are now beginning to sell farmed fish under other names like "ocean" fish. While fish farms are located in the ocean where fish are confined to a certain area, the name falsely suggests that such fish were found in the wild. Only fish labeled "wild" is actually fish that was caught from a natural, ocean environment.

Fish eaters would do well to inquire of their local fish vendor about the source of its fish. Some fish suppliers are artificially coloring farmed salmon pink and selling it as wild. Putting pressure on vendors to verify whether its fish is truly wild will help to stop this practice. Purchasing only wild fish will also help to stop fish farming.

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