Fake News Getting a Fishy Stench

Fish farm in Saronic Gulf, Photo: Artur Rydzewski, via Flickr

Aquaculture is proving to be providing a sustainable solution with the ability to feed millions more, so why are people so against it?

What is Aquaculture?

Aquaculture is the farming or culturing of marine organisms for commercial purposes. This often involves placing a high volume of a particular organism in one area and rearing it for human consumption or industrial purposes. Currently, aquaculture is being used to exceed the threshold of wild fisheries which are becoming severely depleted. So why is there a public outcry against aquaculture?

Scrolling through Facebook and other modes of social media, it doesn’t take long to find the negativity towards aquaculture. Words like “toxic” and “disgusting” came up all too frequently.


Where does the hate come from?

Looking deeper at what people are writing on social media against aquaculture a pattern begins to emerge. The sources people used to validate their arguments had little to no credible evidence. In fact, one website suggested that Tilapia is bad because it could cause cancer, Alzheimer’s. The article also suggested farmers fed the Tilapia with “chicken and pig poop.” 

Even articles which did publish evidence heavily misinformed their readers on the topic. One article had the headline “Fish farming so filthy salmon are getting lice.”  What many people are unaware of is that sea

lice are a natural part of the marine ecosystem, it does not mean the fish are “filthy”. The problem of sea lice can often arise in aquaculture when the volume of fish in a small space amplify the population of lice. This amplification of parasites does cause problems for both the environment and the fish, however in countries like Australia, this is very tightly regulated, as it can affect the general health of the farmed fish as well as wild populations.


Room for Improvement

School of Cod, Photo: Cogdog, via Flickr

Now I’m not saying that fish farming is without its flaws, in fact, there are many problems that need to be solved to prevent damage to the environment. However, spreading fears and rumours about farmed fish or any “controversial topic” only leads to further distrust, where the blame is often put upon the scientists trying to discover the solutions.  

There are serious benefits to the farming of marine organisms that people are leaving out of the media. In general farmed fish are more tightly monitored, the risk of organisms being exposed to toxic materials can be significantly lower. Fisheries know exactly where the fish have been and what they have been exposed to compared to wild catchments. The effects of by-catch and trawling have devastating effects on the marine ecosystem and aquaculture provides a solution to minimise these.

Get a Second Opinion

Spell out the Fake News. Photo: Marco Verch, via Flickr

Understandably with infinite access to infinite volumes of information, it can be difficult to filter through the real news from the fake. Next time you are reading an article/blog/post, check where the facts are coming from, are there any links to further information? If the site is called “www.thegarlic.com/fake-news” and it’s talking about why “Farmed fish is worse than bacon” (which was an actual headline not long ago) it’s likely going to be made up.

So if you’re not sure? Google it! Look for a credible source with scientific backing. Pages like The Conversation will often site where their information is coming from. Government sites like NOAA or The Department of Agriculture and Water Resources often provide good summaries on current aquaculture practices. With access to so much information, it is important to read everything with a critical perspective, for the fish’s sake.