Fish come from here: our action underwater

sub vicino una vasca di pesci d'acquacoltura
© Essere Animali


Fish come from here: our action underwater

Brenda Ferretti
Campaigns manager

Fish consumption continues to grow, with serious consequences for animal health, human health and the environment. We went to Liguria to investigate a sea bream and sea bass farm to show how fish live imprisoned in the open sea.

In the morning, together with two of our activists wearing a diving suit, we reached the port and embarked. About 10 minutes later, when we were around a mile off from the coast, we found ourselves facing some twenty circular cages, formed by nets, containing thousands of animals.

Intensive fish farming cages, documented by our investigation team.
© Essere Animali

Once there, our divers prepared for the dive: they wore oxygen tanks, masks and fins and dived into the water up to 10 metres below the sea surface to see how extensive the cages were. A huge wall of nets with hundreds of thousands of fish inside: this is where the fish that end up on our tables come from. These animals are forced to live imprisoned in the middle of the sea in hugely overcrowded conditions with no stimuli, for up to one and a half years before being hauled out and slaughtered.

53% of the fish consumed all over the world come from farms like this. Aquaculture was developed to stop the impoverishment of the seas and oceans caused by fishing, but most of the fish species raised are carnivorous. This means that wild fish stocks are still used to feed animals on farms: as many as a third of all wild fish caught are destined for the production of feed for farmed fish.

Our activist is ready to dive into the water.
© Essere Animali

Fish consumption in Italy is very high: 31 kg per person per year — well above the European average of 24.3 and the global average of 21 kg. Sea bream and sea bass are the most commonly consumed species (1 in 4 fish). However, Italian production only covers 15% of domestic demand so most are imported, especially from Greece.

Fish must also be protected

Fish are sentient animals that are able to experience pain and fear, but on fish farms they are kept in terrible conditions that do not take their ethological needs into account whatsoever. They live in confined, overcrowded and dirty spaces, even for years, and their feed contains wild fish caught by means of bottom trawling. As well as being unsustainable because of its dependence on industrial fishing, aquaculture also makes extensive use of antibiotics and thus endangers marine biodiversity and human health.

The new report by the Aquatic Animal Alliance

We at Essere Animali form part of the Aquatic Animal Alliance, which today published a report highlighting the connection between the living conditions of animals on fish farms and issues relating to the health of fish, humans and the environment.

As the report explains, aquaculture can actually have a very negative impact on the health of ecosystems: the escape of fish from fish farms can endanger the lives of native species, the presence of feed in the cages can compromise the quality of the water where they are located, leading to the emergence of ‘dead’ zones, the proliferation of algae and serious health problems, and the massive use of antibiotics can promote the development of drug-resistant strains. For more information, you can download the summary of the report here and the full version here.

One of the cages on the farm we visited in Liguria.
© Essere Animali

This is the year that can change everything

This is a crucial year, because the first UN Food Systems Summit and the development of new FAO guidelines for sustainable aquaculture took place. But there’s more: in recent months, we participated in the No Animal Left Behind campaign, coordinated by Eurogroup for Animals, which is asking the European Commission for the complete revision of the legislation on the protection of farmed animals. One of the demands of the campaign is precisely to extend protection to animals that have never previously been covered by legislation, such as fish.

But that’s not all: by means of our #AncheiPesci (FishToo) campaign, we are trying to ensure that supermarket chains also adopt stricter policies to protect their rights. It is time for the approach to aquatic animals to change profoundly and for them to be given the minimum rights reserved for land animals.

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