And the Swiss-based body said fish escaping from pens used by the
growing number of salmon-breeding businesses on inland rivers could
speed the destruction of stocks of wild Atlantic salmon, highly prized
for its rich taste.
"The spread of the aquaculture (sea farming) industry must be
controlled to avoid physical damage to coastal ecosystems and wild
species and to lessen negative environmental impacts on coastal
communities," WWF expert Simon Cripps said.
Farm-free zones and marine protected areas should be set up around
coastlines to protect vulnerable species and the environment in which
The statement from the body -- known generally as the World Wide Fund
for Nature but called the World Wildlife Fund in the United States --
was issued in advance of a major gathering of industry representatives
in Norway on Tuesday.
The gathering, AquaNor, is held every two years, attracting fish
farmers from all over northern Europe, and some from much farther
afield. Some 20,000 are expected to attend this year's meeting and
exhibition in Trondheim.
WWF-International said fish and shellfish farming was the world's
fastest-growing food sector, worth more than $56 billion annually, and
was set to overtake cattle ranching by the end of the current decade.
"The industry, which provides one third of the fish consumed globally,
has been allowed to grow unchecked, resulting in an increasing number
of environmental problems," said the privately -funded body, which has
national sections in most countries.
In 2002, the WWF said, more than 630,000 farmed salmon had escaped in
Norway alone -- more than the total number of the already-endangered
wild Atlantic salmon spawning in its rivers.
"Interbreeding with escaped farmed salmon is expected to alter in wild
salmon the unique genetic makeup which allows them to migrate from
freshwater to the ocean and back to freshwater to spawn," the statement
Fish farms on coastlines, the WWF said, can damage the environment by
releasing food waste, pathogens and chemicals into the water and air.
This had already caused damage to the habitat of other animals and fish
in Scotland and Norway.
"Aquaculture can play an important role in providing an adequate supply
of fish to consumers, but it must happen in tandem with sustainable
practices," Cripps declared.
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