Is over-reliance on technology the real cause of the salmon industry’s mortality crisis?

Editorial Staff

Scientists show that large-scale mortalities are now happening more frequently and at a scale never seen before.

A study published in Scientific Reports has argued that increased reliance on technology may actually be contributing to the salmon industry’s mortality crisis

The analysis, conducted by Gerald G. Singh, Zaman Sajid, and Charles Mather using data from 2012 to 2022, shows an increase in both the frequency and scale of mass mortality events in major salmon-producing nations, notably Norway, Canada, and the UK.

These events, characterized by large numbers of fish dying within short periods, have escalated in scope in recent years, with the upper limit of fish deaths per event rising significantly over time.

The study analyzed salmon mortality records from the top four salmon aquaculture producing nations – Norway, Chile, the United Kingdom, and Canada, which accounted for about 90% of the global salmon aquaculture output in 2021.

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Additionally, data from Australia and New Zealand were included, bringing the coverage to over 92% of global salmon production. Over the past decade, these six nations experienced the mortality of approximately 865 million fish due to MMEs.

The research highlights that MMEs are not solely environmental but often result from a combination of natural events and human decisions, such as production practices and overuse of medications.

In salmon aquaculture, this risk is increasing due to the expansion of the industry into new environments and the aggressive use of technology to optimize production, according to the study.

Three points

The study underscores three main points. Firstly, while natural environmental variables are often blamed for MMEs, a closer examination usually reveals a human element contributing to these events. Ignoring the human dimension can lead to a lack of accountability.

Secondly, the increasing dependence on sophisticated technology and infrastructure to boost production in unsuitable environments can paradoxically lead to greater disaster risks, a phenomenon known as the manufacturing of risk.

And thirdly, these risks are often exacerbated by economic pressures, such as intense competition and insufficient regulatory oversight, leading to a hurried development that might overlook risk assessment.

The authors call for more detailed and standardized data collection on salmon mortality events and suggest that future research should focus more on understanding and mitigating the potential for disaster in salmon aquaculture.


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