We brought TV programme #Cartabianca inside Italian fish farms

Martina Scalini

Our investigative team brought Cinzia Torriglia from #Cartabianca, Bianca Berlinguer’s in-depth programme on channel Rai 3, inside a fish farm breeding sea bream and sea bass.

The fish farm is located in Liguria, on the so called “Riviera di Levante”, and contains hundreds of thousands of fish that will end up in major supermarket chains and ultimately on Italian tables. 53% of the fish consumed in the world comes from aquaculture, i.e. from fish farms, and this figure is constantly increasing. The consumption of fish products also continues to increase — in 1960 in Italy people ate 10 kg per person per year; nowadays, the figure is three times as much.

As the cages of the farm are positioned along the coasts, as our head of investigations Francesco Ceccarelli explains, no exchange of water takes place. This causes the excrement, feed, pesticides, antibiotics, algaecides and fungicides, which are used regularly, to settle on the sea bottom thus compromising the surrounding environment.

As the pictures show, the cages are completely bare, there is no environmental enrichment and as a result animals can only swim apathetically in circles with no stimuli whatsoever. In the long run, this causes chronic stress and makes the fish more susceptible to disease.

Dead fish floating on the surface, exhausted by life on the intensive fish farm.
© Essere Animali

During the TV service, our investigator Paolo dives into the water to get a better view of the cages: “The water is very cloudy, there are several dead animals and the ones that are alive are crammed in together because there is no space. You breathe in a rotten smell,” he explains.

On intensive fish farms, in fact, the mortality rate is very high and ranges from 10 to 20%. The structure visited by our investigators together with #CartaBianca is a fattening farm, similar to those on land used for other species. Sea bream take 18 months to reach the commercial size, which is around 300-500 grams, and sea bass take 24 months.

The investigators and Cinzia Torriglia then move to a supermarket, where sea bass raised in Italy are sold and have therefore lived in the same conditions as the fish found on the farm they have just visited.

Most of the fish in supermarkets come from fish farms.
© #Cartabianca

The importance of television footage

The opportunity to show these images on TV is crucial when it comes to informing as many people as possible about the problems of this industry. Aquaculture has grown exponentially in recent years to respond to the increase in fish consumption, but, just like fishing, it is an unsustainable activity, harmful to marine ecosystems and above all a source of suffering for billions of fish.