Social Issues / The Salmon Effect: Salmons Ecological And Economical Impact On The Worl

The Salmon Effect: Salmons Ecological And Economical Impact On The Worl

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Autor:  anton  23 April 2011
Tags:  Salmon,  Effect,  Salmons,  Ecological,  Economical,  Impact
Words: 2150   |   Pages: 9
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The Salmon Effect: Salmons Ecological and Economical Impact on the World

The notion of fast food has emerged into part of everyday life of American households only in the latter part of the twentieth century. In contrast, the slow food movement has had a much greater past but has been in the shadows of the fast food culture since fast foods emergence in the United States. Consequently, due to a climate crisis, an impending recession and a new awareness of health and lifestyle, the slow food movement has surfaced back on the map in the everyday lives of Americans. The slow food movement asks, impart, for the contemporary world to question what impact the food we consume has. To answer that question we must investigate where the food we eat comes from and the consequences that consumption has on the world around us, including economical and the environmental impacts.

Research shows that the average bite of American food has traveled more than 1500 miles before it reaches your lips changing hands an average of six times along the way . This is due to a highly globalized market. The food producers around the world are able to provide a limitless amount of food year round to the consumers. In fact, in 1910 there were over 13.5 million farmers on over 6.5 million farms in the US, in 2000; there were only 2.9 million farmers on 2.1 million farms. Furthermore, less than two percent of the country currently lives on farms . These statistics exemplify the change in notions about production and efficiency and the entire mindset we have on food production in the U.S. It is true that the consolidation and concentration of food producing and retailing has lowered prices and created an abundance of food year around. But consequently, the consolidation and concentration of both producing and retailing has had an immensely negative impact on both the environment and society. One specific food which has had an enormous impact in both production and retailing aspects in particular is seafood.

Seafood is one of the most intriguing adventures of food in supermarkets. An abundance of rows of all different types of fresh fish from all different parts of the world line ice filled displays at reasonably affordable prices. The United States is only behind Japan and China in the consumption of seafood. In fact, Americans ate an average of 16.5 pounds per person, up four pounds since 1980 largely due to the new awareness of health and lifestyle .

One fish in particular has had a greater impact than any other seafood, Salmon. Salmon is one of the country's most popular fresh fishes. More than twenty-three million people eat it more than once a month . As Salmon’s popularity has grown, the commercial production of Salmon has become more and more intriguing. To understand the commercial circumstances behind Salmon production we must first analyze some basics about Salmon. Salmon are indigenous to the Atlantic, as well as the Northern Pacific. Salmon trace their origins to fresh water streams where they spawn and then migrate to either the northern Atlantic or Pacific waters. The irony is that most Salmon sold in U.S. supermarkets and restaurants are labeled Atlantic salmon but are imported from Chile (Pacific based). In fact, Atlantic Salmon are considered to be an endangered species in the U.S. making Salmon illegal to commercially fish in the U.S. In addition, the ocean's ability to produce Salmon is diminishing. With increasingly sophisticated fishing gear and farming methods, humans' ability to catch Salmon has exceeded the ocean's capacity to produce Salmon. Accordingly, this begins our adventure of where the Salmon we eat more than once a month, on average, for dinner and on bagels for breakfast, actually comes from.

The adventure of the Atlantic Salmon from the waters of Chile to the store display starts at the vast amount of over eight-hundred salmon farms along the coast of Chile. In fact, sixty-five percent of farmed Salmon consumed in the United States comes from the farms in Chile . The farming of Salmon in Chile is a contradiction in itself; Salmon are not only not native to Chile, the Atlantic Salmon doesn't appear naturally anywhere south of the equator. In addition, Chile is now the largest harvester of Salmon than anywhere else in the world. The Salmon which the Americans import from Chile has become so popular that the total world salmon harvest in 1985 was fifty thousand metric tons. It doubled in two years. By 1990, it was three hundred thousand metric tons. As the demand for Salmon grew, the Chileans started aggressively farming salmon, and the price started to drop dramatically as the worldwide supply surged bringing on many environmental, societal, and health problems along for the ride.

Besides the contradiction of the unintentional outsourcing of Salmon farming, the actual farming of the salmon has both economical and environmental impacts. Chile’s rugged coastline has an immense amount of inlets and fjords that provide the kind of protection that pens of farmed fish in the ocean need. Furthermore, the Salmon are farmed in large-scale, densely stocked net pens that pollute surrounding waters with waste and chemicals. Salmon waste is the largest component of polluting surrounding waters. According to Gerry Leape, vice president of marine conservation for the National Environmental Trust, “One million Salmon produce the same waste as sixty-five thousand people.” Along with the waste, excess feed offers another source of pollution. Any food that isn't consumed settles to the ocean floor, adding to the layer of feces. The waste itself contains residues of antibiotics and other chemicals used to keep the fish healthy . As a result, the waste, excess feed and chemicals create dead zones along coastal regions which are detrimental to surrounding environments. With tens of millions of salmon living in vast ocean farms, their excess food and feces settling to the ocean floor beneath the pens, and dozens of salmon processing plants dumping untreated salmon entrails directly into the ocean, negatively affects the ecology of the surrounding areas.

Not only is the ecology negatively impacted, the health of the fish as well as the health of the people who consume the Salmon are negatively impacted. Wild Salmon (Salmon that are not farmed) are historically nutritious and provide a wide variety of health benefits. Wild Salmon is high in protein and low in fat content, which is appealing to most people, should not be confused with that of farmed Salmon . The widespread pollution and chemical use in farmed Salmon has the opposite health benefits then that of the wild Salmon. In addition, parasites as well as disease are much more abundant in the overstocked pens of farmed Salmon. Consequently there are many more health risks when consuming farmed Salmon as opposed to wild Salmon.

In addition to the detrimental effects that Salmon farming has on both the environment and the consumer’s health, more indirect aspects of Salmon farming including transportation and the retailing of Salmon, have extremely damaging effects on both an economy as well as the environment. It is a wonder too many people how fish is so fresh in the display cases at local supermarkets. The answer lies in the transportation methods between South America and the destination of the Salmon. After the Salmon is processed in a plant conveniently located adjacent to one of eight-hundred Chilean farms, the Salmon is transported by truck, usually a highly non fuel efficient truck (due to financial restraints of farmers, and frankly a lack of care and knowledge of the dangers of carbon emissions) a hundred miles to the capital of Santiago. It is appropriate to mention that automobiles account for over 17% of carbon emissions in Chile . There the Salmon is transported via plane (only 3% of all carbon emissions in the world) to numerous metropolitan areas where trucks are then dispersed to retailers. It is also important to note that automobiles in the U.S. released over two billion tons of carbon emissions . Consequently, the fresh, cheap Salmon you buy within 48 hours of farming at your local food market has a detrimental affect just by the transportation alone. In addition to the negative impacts of farming of the Salmon itself, the transportation of the Salmon is just as harmful to the environment.

Another indirect aspect of Salmon farming, which might be even more detrimental to society, environment and an economy, is the physical retailer where the Salmon is sold, such as a Wal-Mart or a Costco. Besides the damage of the physical farming and transportation has, the actual, physical store one purchases the Salmon from has an immense amount of detrimental environmental and economical effect. A prime example of retailers that have an immense impact are what many economists call “Big Box” retailers, mocking the extensive box like shape that line our highways. Using Wal-Mart as an example, since they buy one-third of the annual harvest of Salmon that Chile produces as well as the number one seller of Salmon in the U.S., to show how retailers may have an even bigger impact on economies and the environment then the farming or transportation. It is appropriate to first start off by viewing the impact of the mammoth physical “Super Center” it self. Tens of thousands of acres of habitat have been paved for big-box parking lots in itself, and that is just the parking lots. Most Wal-Mart super centers average over 75,000 square feet. As a result, land of carbon absorbing fields and forests are destroyed making way for these enormous shopping utopias. In addition, it was estimated in 2005 that Wal-Mart produced 15.3 million metric tons of CO2 emissions. Three quarters of the pollution came just from the electric of these massive super centers . It is important to note that these estimations do not take into account the emissions of the long distances one must travel to fill those massive parking lots because of the economical impact a big box retailer has on local economies. A big box retailer have displaced tens of thousands of neighborhood businesses, slashing jobs as well as destroying the “Mom and Pop” shops, and focuses the necessities of everyday living into huge stores that draw car-borne shoppers from large areas. Between 1990 and 2001, shopping-related driving grew by forty percent. As a result, Americans traveled over 365 billion miles annually to and from the store, producing 154 million metric tons of CO2 annually . According to Stacy Mitchell, a senior researcher with the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, “Wal-Mart accounts for 10 percent of all U.S. retail sales, its share of the driving-caused emissions is 15.4 million metric tons -- and likely more because the chain leads the way in auto-oriented store formats and locations. And that figure is in addition to the 15.3 million metric ton figure the company itself reports as the “carbon footprint” for its U.S. stores and trucks' power needs.” We can see with many of these statistics which many consumers overlook, the largest retailers of such popular foods of Salmon may have an even greater impact on an environment and a local economy, taking everything into consideration, that the actual retailing of the Salmon may have more of a detrimental impact than the actual fish itself.

The average American consumer does not take such detrimental aspects as farming methods, transportation of the food, and retailing of the food, into consideration when shopping. Not only are the consumers healths at risk due to faulty farming methods but the environment as well as local economies are at risk. As evident in recent history, Salmon is a large part of the American culture. Consequently Salmon will be around for a very long time filling the stomachs of people around the world. In conclusion, it is important to understand the greater impact that something as simple as Salmon can have on such a large scale and to formulate new ideas and innovations which one day can save the world and provide a better future not only for our children but for our children’s grandchildren.

1. Environmental Defense Fund. “Seafood Selector: Make Smart Choices When Eating Seafood” (accessed February 25, 2008)

2. Fishman, Charles. The Wal-Mart Effect: How the World's Most Powerful Company Really Works -- and How It's Transforming the American Economy. Penguin Press, 2006.

3. “Greenhouse Gas Emissions Up for Cars, Trucks in 2006”. Detroit Free Press, 2006

4. McKibben, Bill. Deep Economy: The Wealth of Communities and the Durable Future (Times Books, 2007).

5. Mitchell, Stacy. “Big Box Retailing Is Intrinsically Unsustainable.” Grist Magazine, March 28, 2007.

6. Mitchell, Stacy. Big-Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America's Independent Businesses. Beacon Press, 2006.

7. Peirce, Neil. “Green Wal-Mart: An Oxymoron?” The Washington Post, June 24, 2007.

8. Scherer, Ron. “Delivery Companies Switch to Hybrids.” Christian Science Monitor. November 2007.

9. USDA Economic Research Service. “State Fact Sheets”. USDA. (Accessed March 4, 2008)

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