Roughly 50,000 farm-raised salmon swam free earlier this week off the coast of Tasmania after part of their enclosure was melted due to a fire.
According to EcoWatch, the salmon’s escape has prompted concerns from local environmentalists, who are worried about the impact of the farmed fish on native wildlife and ecosystems. While the farm’s owners insist that impact will be minimal and the fish will be quickly eaten by seals or caught by recreational fishers, others disagree.
The cause of the fire is still unknown, but the offshore enclosure, owned by Huon Aquaculture, lost about one percent of their stock and has no plans on recapturing the escaped fish.
“Farmed salmon generally don’t appear to feed on native species. While some fish did survive for some months, this did not necessarily mean that these fish were thriving,” said Pene Snashall, the corporate communications and community relations manager at Huon Aquaculture.
Environmentalists, however, disagree.
“One IMAS [Institute for Marine and Antarctic Studies] study found 15% of escaped salmon lived off wild fish – that’s 7,800 from just this escape, and they happen regularly. Then there are the animal welfare issues – with thousands of animals just starving to death. Huon needs to follow global investment patterns and get their feedlots out of the ocean and onto land,” states Laura Kelly of Environment Tasmania.