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The Consequences Of Farmed Salmon With Simen Sætre, Author of The New Fish

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Due to its popularity, farmed salmon became one of the fastest-growing industries right now. However, cultivating this particular fish within concentrated environments comes with a long list of consequences that negatively impact the environment and human health. Corinna Bellizzi digs deep into the many problems caused by farmed salmon with investigative journalist and author Simen Sætre. Together, they explain why wild salmon is drastically declining and how it affects the entire fishing community. Simen also explains why farmed salmon is considered unhealthy and a huge risk to the environment when mixed with wild fishes.

 

About Simen Sætre

CMBB 156 | Farmed SalmonSimen Sætre is an investigative reporter who has been published in many languages. He has written six books, on themes including the international chocolate industry, oil states, and a spy in the Norwegian army. His thought-provoking books have been acclaimed and nominated for prizes. His latest book: The New Fish: The Truth about Farmed Salmon and the Consequences We Can No Longer Ignore is out this summer in English thanks to Patagonia Press.

 

Guest Website: https://www.patagonia.com/product/the-new-fish-paperback/BK905.html

Guest Social: https://www.instagram.com/simen.saetre/, https://www.instagram.com/patagonia

 

Show Notes: – Raw Combined Audio

00:00 – Introduction

04:12 – Writing “New Fish”

11:57 – The problems of salmon fishing

20:29 – Chemicals used on farmed salmon

25:44 – How salmon affect other fish populations

37:56 – How to positively transform the salmon fishing industry

44:25 – Surprising findings

49:24 – Better food choices

55:34 – Closing Words

 

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The Consequences Of Growing Farmed Salmon With Simen Sætre

Those of you who’ve tuned into the show for a while know that my professional work is centered around sustainable nutrition, specifically Omega-3s. I got my start working in the fish oil industry years ago with Nordic Naturals, a Norwegian-owned fish oil and nutrition company. I’ve since pivoted purely to the world of algae for many reasons. The center of this is that I don’t believe there are many sustainable fishing solutions anymore and that fish farming isn’t the solution that we need.

We’re finally going to have the opportunity to talk about that deeply. There are algae out there that can be grown in a multitude of ways. They don’t have to negatively impact marine life. It’s where fish get their Omega-3s in the first place. That’s the reason I made the pivot in the first place. I’ve talked with you about the realities of overfishing and climate change which impacts, not only the algae species that grow and thrive in the wild but the nutrient profile of the fish that eat them. I’m sure the fact that I don’t like farm fish for many reasons and that I’ve stepped away from eating fish for the most part. I never got the chance to explore with you the realities of why with depth until now.

Farming and some animals in particular are problematic from the start. In the world of aquaculture, fish farmers see their work as the solution to declining wild animal stocks. Even part of the solution is to take fish and then release them into the wild. Do this hybrid approach to fish farming. The reality is that we have made some major blunders along the way, even those fishing communities around the globe that are known for their work like those in Scandinavia and Norway, where I have a bit of experience. I’ve mentioned this before, but in the Book Four Fish by Paul Greenberg, he revealed that we essentially chose the wrong four fish to try and farm. Those were specifically salmon, tuna, sea bass, and cod.

CMBB 156 | Farmed Salmon
Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food

In this episode, we’re going to dig deep into this conversation as we focus on salmon. Learn from an investigative journalist and a Norwegian himself, Simen Saetre. Simen has written six books on themes, including the international chocolate industry, oil states, and a spy in the Norwegian Army. His thought-provoking books have been acclaimed and nominated for prizes. His most recent work, The New Fish, was co-authored with Kjetil Ostli. It dives into the truth about farmed salmon and the consequences we can no longer ignore. It was released by Patagonia Press and is available wherever books are sold. It’s even available as an Audible audiobook. Simen Saetre, welcome to the show.

Thank you.

For me, a book like this is a bit of a page-turner. It also feels like it comes as a natural next step to my earlier conversation with another Patagonia Press author who wrote Cracked. It’s all about our issues with creating fish ladders to say that dams are going to be okay for hydroelectric power. Resulting in not having the right pathways open so salmon can get upstream to do their spawning, and then impacting marine ecosystems and the forests that they would be in. This is almost a natural next step. That episode was Steven Hawley on Cracked, which is all about the crumbling infrastructure of the world of dams, specifically in the Pacific Northwest. We’re going from the Pacific Northwest to Norway. I would love for you to tell me what compelled you to write this book at this time.

It started with Kjetil, my co-author. He has been interested in algae. He’s a good fisher. He was fishing for many years. He was also fishing for a wild salmon. Kjetil and other people saw that wild salmon was disappearing from the rivers. They have been there all the time for so many years. It has been part of the Norwegian culture in so many years. People spend their holidays going to the rivers, fishing salmon, taking them home, freezing them, and eating them during the winter, but the fish disappear.

This motivated Kjetil when they came to me at the weekly newspaper where I worked. I worked as an investigative reporter. In my newspaper called Morgenbladet, which means “The Morning Paper,” we covered science and scientists. We started to look into this issue with salmon science and salmon scientists. We saw that many of these people who worked with salmon and did research on salmon were harassed by the industry and they got big problems when they got findings about salmon that the industry didn’t like. That was a little bit surprising because you wouldn’t think that salmon could be so controversial.

It’s a big business.

We learned that salmon farming is a very big business and important to many people. That’s why we started to dig into this topic. We didn’t expect so many readers. Scientists and salmon don’t sound that sexy or interesting, but when we read some of those articles, it was unbelievable. Many people read them. Many people got engaged. We got a lot of new tips and leads.

Before you knew it, you had a book.

That was how it all started, and we continued. After the series in the newspaper, we wrote this book and ended up spending five years investigating the industry.

You make some points in the book that I knew would be reality without having to read it, but that’s a lifetime spent in the world of fish oil and Omega-3s. I’ve officially been in this space since 2002, so old enough for an American to go get a bottle of beer.

You have a lot of knowledge about this.

I have a lot of context too. The reality is that you’re talking about something that is so endemic to culture. You mentioned people go for their fishing holidays and come home with salmon or cod. They’re going fishing, taking it home, freezing it, and being able to tell stories of catching the fish. This is endemic to Scandinavian culture as a whole, and Norwegian, where fjords abound.

You are also pointing to the fact that since salmon farming has existed at scale, the fish populations are declining in the wild and that there’s a connection between these two things. This is also an unpopular thought. Unpopular in Norway were controversial. I wondered as you guys were writing this, is there a hit put out on you? Did you fear for your life?

Not really. It’s more subtle. I did fear for my career that people would try to undermine my credibility and such things, but I have met the industry in many debates and I had a lot of interesting conversations with them. They’re not evil and dangerous people.

They’re doing good too.

There are a lot of people in the industry who want to make good solutions, but we want to support the progressive people out there. Also, in the industry, they want to make things more progressive, more climate-friendly, more environmental-friendly, more helping out for small communities, and to make a better life for the fish.

[bctt tweet=”A lot of people in the fishing industry want to make good solutions. Give support to climate and environmental-friendly individuals who help out small communities.” via=”no”]

Let’s talk about what this fish farming looks like now. Most salmon is farmed in open pens that are on the ocean. Also, because of some of the problems that exist with waste products sitting as a cylinder underneath, I have heard from fish farmers that they move the nets from place to place so that they’re able to get the benefits of the micronutrients that are in the ocean. Since they’re not in a single set place constantly, they are less likely to have some of the detriments of being in these open-net pens. I’d love for you to talk about the problems of salmon fishing. Why are there such issues? What can we, as consumers, of fish or other nutrition sources, do about this whole problem?

There are several problems that are intertwined. First, I mentioned the problem of wild salmon in the river that dies out or disappears. The problem is that the farmed salmon escapes from these pens. It can be a storm or bad weather that these pens are destroyed. Thousands or millions of these farmed salmon escape and go to the river. There they meet the wild salmon. This farmed salmon and wild salmon are getting mixed up. Some of them mate to get small fish. This weakens the wild salmon stocks. This is a big threat to wild salmon. You must remember that there are so many more farmed salmon than wild salmon in the fjords. If you take all the wild salmon in Norway and gather them together, you can put them into only 2 or 3 of these pens.

If you were to take the country of Norway, how many pens?

Who knows? There are so many production facilities. All these production facilities are hundreds. They have many pens each. It’s becoming a big industry. That means also that the wild salmon is very vulnerable. That’s also the problem with salmon lice. There’s this small copepod, it’s a small salmon louse that sticks to the salmon. It’s a parasite. It eats the salmon.

At the gills and the flesh. Right around the gills mostly. They lodge on and they’re stuck on. They look like tiny little flat crabs or flat shrimps to me. It’s got an outer shell, but it doesn’t free swim ever. It just attaches to the fish and stays there.

When you have all these millions of farmed salmon gathered together in very small places, this is like paradise to these small parasites. They spread so unbelievably quickly like wildfire. Only with a few of these lice coming into the pens, they can start to spread very quickly, and suddenly, all the salmon there are affected. These lice are floating in the water and also spread to the wild salmon. This is also a major threat to the wild salmon. You then have the problem with this lice that the industry wants to fight this lice.

They end up using all sorts of chemicals to combat the lice. These cocktails of chemicals are poisonous. They’re poisonous to the fish as well. They end up in them. We’re consuming this fish that is marketed as Norwegian salmon. People assume that it’s wild when they go to buy it, but unless it says wild on it, you have to assume it’s farmed at this point.

The same problem exists here in the states with Atlantic salmon. Atlantic salmon is a species of salmon. People think they’re buying wild when they buy Atlantic salmon, but it’s not wild. It’s farmed unless it says wild. Believe me, every time it is wild, it will say wild because they can charge a higher price for that or a premium for that.

We have thousands upon thousands of more pens full of these farmed salmon than wild salmon. We have the problem of sea lice impacting them, and then attaching to them. They escape and they infect wild populations. Even the free-swimming wild populations that come anywhere near the nets could also get infected with these sea lice. The sea lice attach to them and eat their flesh which essentially results in the nickname of “whiteheads.” It’s gross. It’s because you start to be able to see their skulls. They may even go blind. They don’t have eyes anymore.

It’s very hurtful for the salmon.

We make assumptions about the fish not feeling it. Of course, they feel it. They have nerves too and they’re living a miserable existence, and then end on our dinner plate, but so many of them expire. They die this way because of how we’re growing them and farming them. In the book, Four Fish by Paul Greenberg, he dives into how we chose the wrong four fish, understanding that the fish have complex life cycles.

In the case of salmon, they start in the river, and then they go out to the ocean, and then they come back to the river to spawn. We’re trying to recreate some of these conditions, but it’s never the same. You have the fish existing in these pens that are concentrated. You could call them CAFOs of the sea, Concentrated Animal Farming Operations. That’s what they are. They’re technically on open water but in a pen.

They’re like big salmon factories.

They have all of their waste sitting right underneath them. You have concentrated waste in the water. Also, you have treatment of all these chemicals that go into the water that then end up polluting the ocean in the longer term and having unknown consequences. So much so that salmon was even found to potentially be carcinogenic with the levels of pollutants that are present in them.

Big Fishing went up against these ideas and said, “That’s not exactly true. You get more of these toxins if you eat some oatmeal in the morning.” Trying to make these parallels to dispel the idea that these are problems, but the problems are there. We’re getting more PCBs, dioxins, purines, and then these chemicals that they use to treat the sea lice. One of them is called SLICE, if I remember correctly, from reading your book. How many chemicals are the present salmon populations that are being farmed exposed to?

They have used some different chemicals like hydroperoxide. There are many. The problem is that they used this poison too much. The salmon louse got resistant. They’re using it so much that it got resistant. Suddenly, these chemicals didn’t work anymore. The summer farmers panicked and they had to find very quickly new methods to fight the salmon louse. They came up with these methods that had good intentions, but they also had some unintended consequences.

For example, they employed cleaner fish. It means that they fish up all the small fish from the sea like something called RAS. These small fishes swim into the salmon and eat the lice. That’s food for them. Often, they don’t, but in theory, they do this. The thing is this other fish, the cleaner fish, when they get to their new environment in the salmon pens, they’re like a fish out of water. They don’t belong there. They get sick when they get to this new environment. They get eaten by the salmon or they disappear.

Every day in Norwegian salmon pens, something like 37,000 of these cleaner fishes disappear. This is according to some lawyers. This is a breach of the animal welfare law in Norway, using these fishes to eat lice in this production. As I mentioned, they panicked. They had to find new methods very quickly. They also put the salmon into hot water, then the lice fell off. That was intended, but the salmon started to panic when it suddenly came into hot water. For us humans, it will be like if someone suddenly threw us into a boiling bathtub.

It makes no sense. They’re cold-water animals. It would affect their slime coat, too. That’s not healthy for them.

They panic. They get wounds on the skin, and their immune system is hurt. Many of these fishes die when they’re affected by this. That means the discounts on salmon have gotten very high. In Norway, if you put four salmon into the sea, one of them will die before the time for them to get harvested or slaughtered.

CMBB 156 | Farmed Salmon
Farmed Salmon: The death count of salmon in Norway is extremely high. If you put four of them into the sea, one of them will likely die even before being harvested or slaughtered.

 

1 in every 4, that means 25% of salmon that are put into the sea pens don’t make it to harvest. They don’t make it to full scale. I think they’re put in the pens when they’re 6 months old or 1-year-old because they’re grown in a hatchery first.

They’re grown in a hatchery. When they’re ready for it, it depends on how long time this will take. As you indicated, maybe six months or maybe more. They’re put to sea, and they will live there maybe for two years. It depends on what time of the year and such things.

This brings me to the question I have about what is called the colloquially, the Frankenfish because there is a genetically modified salmon strain that had been designed to reach adulthood much more quickly. A typical fledgling would go from 6 months before you could put them in the sea to something like 3 or 4 months. They grew that much more quickly and they required less feed to reach their full size. If you’re familiar with horses, you could have a Thoroughbred that’s lean-boned, strong, and tall, or something like a Clydesdale that’s beefier and chunkier. They don’t even need as much food to grow as big as they do. They’re just more efficient.

This was something we genetically engineered, not me, but the fishing industry, to create salmon that could be hardier, that could reach its full weight more quickly, and that could be harvested sooner. Instead of spending 2 to 3 years before they would be harvested, they could be harvested at 18 months. I don’t know if this got to the point where it is in circulation or in use in Norway, but I know that that was part of conversations that were being had at some point in history.

I also think the fish farmers were looking to this as a savior because they thought it could mean that you would get a higher yield or higher percentage of these fish reaching the harvest age because there’d be less time for things to go wrong. You might go from 1 in 4 loss to maybe 1 in 6. That would be therefore less expensive. That’s why it’s harkened as being the solution to feed humanity with healthy fish. Healthy fish that’s full of chemicals, a lot of which we added, and some of which are known to be carcinogenic so much so that the wild counterpart salmon is much more healthy, then you could almost consider the farmed fish to be a not-healthy-food. Yet people are going to salmon as a healthy food constantly.

You go to your sushi restaurant to get a salmon or a sake, a little treat, and it’s farmed. All of it, at this point. To your point, thousands of pens to 2 or 3 of the fish that are found in the wild as the case of Norway, an environment that has been known for how many fish are in your waters. How is this affecting other fish populations? Is it? Have you found that it’s affecting cod or is it affecting herring?

Not necessarily this specific kind, but salmon has to eat other fish. It’s a carnivore. It had to be fed. The industry wants to make this feed as efficient and cheap as possible. Now, they use a lot of plants like soya grown in Brazil in big fields there. Transport them to the feed factories, but they also have to use fish. They catch a lot of pelagic fish, like small fish.

Sardines and anchovies for the most part.

They select this fish for this with big boats around in the world and make fish meal and fish oil out of it. This fish meal and fish oil are added or combined with the soya, fava beans, and other things, so they make a feed of some of it.

I’m sorry, but the fact that we’re feeding soy and fava beans to salmon is ridiculous. I don’t know a world where salmon evolved to eat beans.

The thing is, if the point was to make more food in the world, it would be better for us humans to eat the fish, soya, and beans that go into the salmon feed. That would be far more effective and more efficient.

We’re losing 25% of the salmon already, so you’ve wasted everything you’ve fed that 25%.

There are some places where local people could have eaten that fish. For example, on the coast of West Africa, it would be better if local people could have eaten those small sardines instead of selling them to these huge companies and making feed out of them. We know the people who live there on the West Coast of Africa can’t afford the salmon but they maybe could have afforded the sardines if they could eat that. This is a problem in the overall food system.

 

 

It’s because we’ve made salmon fashionable. We made it a popular fish.

According to the salmon industry, they do us a service by making more food for the world. The more salmon you produce, the less food you get because the salmon is eating food that we could have eaten instead.

[bctt tweet=”The more you produce salmon, the less food people get. This fish actually eats the food we could be eating instead.” via=”no”]

It’s not necessarily the most popular idea, because people perhaps outside of Norway, don’t necessarily like to go to sardines and anchovies for their fish meat.

It’s delicious. They should eat it more.

They are delicious. I’ve spent some time in Norway, eating fish and every variety that you could consider. I never understood before having spent time there that you would even think of putting something like a fish row in like a toothpick tube, but that’s very common there and it’s delicious. You put it on crackers and things like that. The pickled herring, sardines, and anchovies. Even in Italy, enjoying Ligurian seafood stews that incorporate sardines. Going to a restaurant in the Cinque Terre area and finding the regional dish that is well-known there. Sardines marinara sauce was like tomato sauce with sardines and potatoes. The potatoes are in place of the pasta.

Exploring meals like this and learning that a fresh sardine tastes divine. It doesn’t have to be like the canned thing that you are necessarily used to that’s smoked. Maybe you don’t like that smoked flavor. It’s soaked in Louisiana hot sauce. Maybe you don’t like Louisiana hot sauce or mustard. I happen to like those varieties. The other thing to consider is if we are going to pelagic fish like sardines and anchovies, these smaller-bodied fish. They’re very high in Omega-3s. They’re low on the food chain.

They’re very healthy.

They eat algae. The algae have Omega-3s, so they get the benefits of that, and we can get a direct source of those nutrients along with calcium and all sorts of other vital nutrients that our bodies need to thrive. Even though I don’t eat very much fish anymore, if I am somewhere where I can go fishing and catch my own, I will eat that fish. There’s something about that connection to the environment when you can commune with nature and catch a fish on your own. Even having taken some recent vacations to places where people used to fish, I’m seeing there aren’t as many fish in the rivers and people are coming home at the end of the day with their nets empty.

There are so many resources in the ocean and so many delicious things to eat there. We only eat a tiny bit of it still. There are so many ways we could use these resources instead of feeding them to salmon. What we’re doing now is transporting soya beans and sardines all over the world to places like Norway, Canada, Chile, and so on. The transport is to feed all over the world. Feed it to salmon, and then we fly by airplane the salmon to other markets from Norway to the United States.

This model makes a lot of good money for the industry, but for the planet as a whole, this is not a good model. We should think about better and more modern ways to do this. Also, there are so many people out there who are young and conscious about what they eat, like vegetarians and environmentalists. If they read a book and get to know how this is produced, they will start to ask questions, “How can we use this better? Can we buy other kinds of fish? Instead of salmon, use other kinds of fish.” There are so many opportunities and it’s a shame that we are stuck with salmon as the solution.

 

 

It has become America’s most popular fish to consume at restaurants and other places.

Sushi and so on.

You see on the menu other fish like sea bass or halibut. Perhaps sometimes you’ll also see cod, especially if you’re getting fish and chips at a British pub or something to that effect. We don’t see a ton of species of fish on the menu and very rarely do we see anything like sardines. The only space that we see something like anchovies is perhaps at a pizzeria or on top of our Caesar salad.

I went to a restaurant and they served mackerel. It’s strange. There are many mackerel in the sea outside Norway where I live, but very rarely served in restaurants. It’s a delicious fish.

As it stands now, do you think that things can change positively within the salmon fishing industry to get to a point where it becomes a viable option that doesn’t negatively impact our ecosystems and wild fish populations? Is it a non-starter? Is this something we should never have started?

We need to think about short-term, long-term, and different solutions. The first step would be for consumers to gain some knowledge for people who eat salmon to read a little bit and get a little bit more informed about how things work. If people do that, there could maybe be more alternatives in the shops. You could buy better options than salmon from better producers.

In the end, maybe also buy other kinds of fish that are possible to grow more sustainable. Fish that eats something you can find in the water. We should also eat smaller fish and seaweed. Use more of these resources of food that you find in the ocean. The first step would be to be more conscious consumers and use your power to demand maybe a better fish.

That’s part of the reason you called this book The New Fish. This isn’t just about salmon. It’s about the fact that we created something that isn’t necessarily its wild counterpart, can’t outcompete it, and can perhaps actually kill it off by creating weaker young. Initially, the fear before salmon farming started was that it would get out and outcompete wild populations.

CMBB 156 | Farmed Salmon
The New Fish: The Truth about Farmed Salmon and the Consequences We Can No Longer Ignore

That hasn’t happened because you’re not finding the wild stocks there anymore. They’ve weakened the population because they’ve grown in conditions that are coddled and they haven’t had to experience the same struggles. They haven’t taken their early life from the fresh waters streams and brooks into the ocean and then fought their way back in to expire and feed the forests and all the other microorganisms that live there. They’re weaker than their wild counterpart.

People should eat wild salmon when they still can, because here in Norway, you can’t get it anymore. You can’t ever go to a store in Norway and buy a wild salmon. I’ve written this book, but I never tasted wild salmon. In the US, you can still get it from Alaska or Canada.

I can still get sockeye salmon periodically. I also wanted to share with people a couple of things about your book that I think are important. 1) This was a book that you wrote originally in Norwegian for the marketplace there. Yvon Chouinard of Patagonia said, “This book needs to see the light of day beyond Norway’s shores.” He had it translated and brought through Patagonia Press. I want to personally thank him for having done that because the book is beautiful.

It even showcases some interesting campaigns and beautiful pictures throughout. This one shows messages like salmon farming and putting it on a pack of Marlboro tobacco cigarettes. The first one in the upper left says, “Norwegian-owned salmon farming kills wild baby salmon.” It doesn’t say Marlboro, but it looks like a pack of Marlboro.

You had some of these campaigns in the arena of fishing to help and try to reach consumers and have them understand what’s so wrong with something like farmed salmon. The fact that we’re dyeing its flesh to make it look pink so that it doesn’t look gray. The fact that we are spreading diseases and salmon farming is a health hazard to the workers. As well as us because it contains more pollutants than the wild counterparts would and forever chemicals that can damage our health for years to come. These are important points. Also, the fact that you have crafted so many stories. I feel like I’m reading cliffhangers in spots, even though I have knowledge of the industry as a whole. It’s a beautiful book.

 

 

We wanted it not only to inform people but also to be a good read and to be fun to read.

It’s compelling. If people take the time to read it, they’ll understand both their food systems and food supplies better. They’ll start to ask more questions about where other foods might come from and the impacts on the planet and their health that that could have. Also, about making wiser choices like you have recommended.

Perhaps we shouldn’t spend so many resources giving a present food to an animal that will be a secondary food later. Feeding soy, fava beans, and all this fish meal to a salmon that we’re going to lose at least 25% of. Ultimately have a much more expensive equivalent meal on your plate, eating four ounces of salmon, that in that time of creation would’ve consumed bushels of food, essentially. I wonder if there were any major surprises that came out of your research, things that you didn’t expect.

This is such a big industry and a big topic. Many people eat salmon, but so little has been written about it. There have been so few investigations like this. It’s almost that you will believe that more people had to dig into it. That was a surprise. It’s almost the first time that someone has tried to figure out what this is about. It’s also fascinating to see this started only in the 1970s. It’s less than 50 years old.

It’s such a new and different food production. That’s also fascinating. To see how fast it grew from the very start. How they started to make this new fish. They started with wild salmon and they tried to shape it. Pairing different types of wild salmon to make it grow faster, bigger, fatter, and more efficient. That is also a pioneering history. It’s very fascinating to read and to discover for my part.

[bctt tweet=”Cultivating farmed salmon only started in the 1970s. Despite being less than 50 years old, it is fascinating to see how fast it grew from the very start.” via=”no”]

Also, it’s surprising that I come from Norway. We think it’s an innocent place. We didn’t know that there was such a hard environment or fights within. Some people were so cynical. Norwegians are maybe a little bit naive sometimes. We don’t see that big business is big business and people play by different rules. Maybe that’s something.

If I’m hearing you right, you expected in a way that the Norwegian coastline culture would be so connected that people wouldn’t be making choices willingly to sacrifice what the natural world would be like to make more fish. Is that summing it up pretty well?

Yeah, maybe because some years ago, the summer farmers were coastal people, fishermen, and farmers with very small businesses. Very quickly, this grew. Multinational corporations took over. There’s a little bit more greed. Maybe people started to make a lot more money. This changes the business a little bit.

Simen, I hope that our audience has learned a bit about what this real new fish is like and perhaps why we should be making different choices when we shop for food, consider different questions, and start to push for change, even if from the bottom. To do so, are there any particular ideas or thoughts that you can leave in the hands of our audience for things that they can do, even how they might shop when they go to the grocery store?

If they know that they are buying salmon, they should ask about the salmon. How is it produced? Where does it come from? Is their producer conscious of production and ethical things? They should ask more. Be more demanding. Did they use poison against the lice? Did the salmon have any parasites? Was the salmon sick in a way? Did it have skin diseases? Did it have wounds? What did the salmon eat? They should ask, “Are there other producers that are doing better? Could they choose different salmon?” Probably by now, they can’t, so then they should just buy cod, herring, sardines, or mackerel.

Essentially, other fishes that are caught wild and not farmed.

It’s like at least in Norwegian stores and also in American stores, you can buy any other fish than salmon. It will be more climate-friendly. I like whitefish a lot, so that’s probably the best choice right now. They should ask questions.

I know, in the Pacific Northwest and up in Alaska, the argument many of these fisheries make because they aren’t necessarily farming in the rings like what you see so much of in Norway. There is that style of farming too, but a lot of what is done is they have these hatcheries that are then released to the wild with the thought that they’ll then support the wild fish stocks. They’re not wrong. They are supporting wild fish stocks, but the jury is out. If that’s going to be a long-term viable solution, we also see that fish are not making it as far inland anymore. Part of that is dams, but even part of that could be a weakening of the population in the wild.

They don’t make their journey upstream as far, and we know that trees that are growing in areas where the salmon spawn have a growth rate that is double the areas where the salmon do not spawn. We’re both increasing the health and vitality of our forests, the longevity, the deepness of the roots, the ecosystems there, and the natural beauty of the land. We’re supporting all of these things that we don’t necessarily think about.

When we farm something like a salmon that is intended to start its life in babbling brooks and end up in its juvenile stage, swimming out to the ocean to then capture the nutrients in the sea and bring them back to the forest. If we’ve struck out that lifecycle and that life purpose, then we’ve created greater damage than we might ever have conceived because it’s degrading two environments. It’s impacting two entirely different arenas. It impacts the ability of killer whales or orcas to live fruitfully because salmon make up a huge part of their diet too.

You have these apex predators in these spaces too that are also affected. As you’re not seeing these small fledgling salmon or even large salmon in streams that were once there, and you are seeing them in pens, are the whales able to eat that food? No. What happens? That’s our biggest fallacy. As humans, we think we can solve all these problems coming through a technological perspective, but often nature knows best. We monkey with it too much, and then what happens? We create more problems. We create sea lice issues. We create essentially a situation where the fish’s flesh is crumbling off of it, so 25% of them die before they can ever reach the market.

What you’re saying is important. We should be very careful with manipulating nature or meddling too much with species or ecosystems because there are so many unintended consequences that we often don’t see or that surprise us. We should be very careful and maybe leave nature a little bit more to itself sometimes.

 

 

I want to thank you so much for your work here. I’m grateful that Patagonia Press translated it into English so that I could read it. I want to say to both you and to Kjetil Ostli. Thank you so much for your work, Simen. This has been phenomenal.

Thank you.

To learn more about Simen Saetre and his work, visit CareMoreBeBetter.com. I encourage you to review that content including the interview I mentioned with Steven Hawley, who wrote Cracked about the dams of the Pacific Northwest that damage salmon’s ability to thrive. That book is also out of Patagonia Press, so keep an eye on that publisher.

I love the work that they’re putting into the world. It does so much to help educate us on the major issues that we should all be aware of that affect our climate, food supply, and so much more. I even saw and I will nod to Amazon on this one, but when I went to Amazon to see the book, it was also available on Audible. I noticed that if I put The New Fish in my cart, I could also put Cracked by Stephen Hawley in my cart at the same time and get them for savings.

If you’re a nerd like me who likes to read about these issues and see these beautiful books in print because they are phenomenal. They walk you through the story. They provide pictures. They provide examples of ads like the ones of those genius Marlboro ads. You can have both of these in hand for reduced cost.

If you do shop on Amazon, I have been curating a shop specifically for the authors that I feature. You can go to that page and review all the books of guests I’ve had on the show. That can enable you to then also go to my website and look at the particular episodes as well. It’s another way to access those books. That’s simply Amazon.com/Shop/CorinnaBellizzi. Any proceeds from that, because it does get a small commission, go to support the show.

If you liked this episode, please subscribe and set that bell to notify you when new episodes drop each week. Leave us a review on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you listen. It will help more people discover the show. Thank you, readers, now and always for being a part of this show and this community because together we can do so much more. We can care more. We can be better. We can even stop this fish farming craze, this manipulation of nature, shift our habits, and find better nutrition solutions that don’t do such incredible damage to our ecosystems and also to our health. Thank you.

 

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  • Simen Saetre

    Simen Sætre is an investigative reporter who has been published in many languages. He has written six books, on themes including the international chocolate industry, oil states, and a spy in the Norwegian army. His thought-provoking books have been acclaimed and nominated for prizes. His latest book: The New Fish: The Truth about Farmed Salmon and the Consequences We Can No Longer Ignore is out this summer in English thanks to Patagonia Press.

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