Fish on intensive fish farms live in critical conditions. They suffer in silence and the time has come to intervene. Please help us by asking supermarket chains to adopt strict policies to protect their rights.
Essere Animali has carried out new undercover investigations at various fish farms in Greece, the country of origin of more than half the sea bream and sea bass sold in Italy.
Our investigation team has documented fish living in overcrowded cages and being thrown into containers filled with water and ice while they are still conscious and where they die after interminable minutes of agony.
Bare and overcrowded cages
Sea bass and sea bream are crammed in cages at high stocking densities. We have documented fish weighing up to 2 kg forced to spend as long as six years in monotonous and barren environments, with nothing to do but swim in circles.
High concentration of farms
On just 18 km of coastline, there are 26 intensive farms raising sea bass and sea bream.
This causes the spread of diseases and parasites from cage to cage. Antibiotics and
pesticides are given to the fish on a regular basis.
In every facility we visited, fish are thrown into containers filled with water and ice while they are still
alive. Here they writhe in agony because they do not loose consciousness immediately: they suffer for many interminable minutes before dying.
Meet the animals
Rainbow trout, sea bass, sea bream and Atlantic salmon are the most widely bred and consumed species in Europe. You may not be aware that fish are curious animals, sociable and full of surprises. However, on intensive farms their life is far from natural.
In the wild, the female prepares the nest by digging a hole in the bottom of the river, where she lays the eggs that are fertilised after she has paired up with the male. To protect them, she covers them carefully with gravel.
On intensive farms, broodfish are taken from the water, anaesthetised and ‘stripped' to extract eggs or milt, depending on their sex. This process causes prolonged stress in the animals and greatly affects their welfare.
Sea bass are coastal fish that love the open sea and sandy seabeds. They are skilled and lively swimmers that need to explore and can venture up to several kilometres from the coast.
In captivity, sea bass are imprisoned in floating cages in the open sea, measuring just a few square metres. In these confined spaces, they cannot move freely and spend their time swimming in circles.
The season of love is a special moment for sea bream: both the male and female change colour to attract each other's attention. A true courtship, at the end of which the female chooses the partner with the best “chromatic transformation”.
On intensive farms, adult fish are subjected to strict regimes of manipulated daylight and temperatures. This allows their reproduction to be forced, controlled and artificially accelerated inside barren tanks.
Atlantic salmon are born in fresh water and then migrate to the sea. As adults, they embark on an incredible journey of hundreds of kilometres to return to their birthplace and lay their eggs, following an infallible “olfactory map”.
In captivity, salmon are first confined to freshwater tanks and then to cages placed in the open sea. Imprisoned in barren environments with no stimuli, they will never be able to accomplish their mission and return to their place of origin.
They feel pain
Fish have the anatomy required to feel pain, are aware of painful responses to stimuli and are able to experience prolonged suffering afterwards
They are intelligent
They can use tools, cooperate socially and have self-awareness, a prerogative that was previously only attributed to very few more advanced species.
They feel emotions
It has been documented that fish experience both positive and negative emotions, suffer from stress, help each other when they are in trouble and even enjoy playing
They have an excellent memory
They can remember places, labyrinths and complex routes even a long time afterwards, better than many other animals
The main issues
Intensive fish farming encompasses a number of issues which are a source of stress and immense suffering for these sensitive animals.
The most common methods used for killing fish can cause significant pain and severe distress. Moreover, fish are often killed without prior adequate stunning and they can die after endless minutes of agony.
Fish are often crammed into overcrowded sea cages and land-based tanks. Poor water quality, disease transmission and overcrowding are just some of the consequences of high stocking densities.
Capture and transport are very stressful moments, as fish are crammed together and lifted out of the water. Increased aggression and frequent attempts to escape are the result of acute stress in fish. The use of inappropriate pumps and nets causes serious injuries.
Manipulation is an invasive procedure that involves removing fish from the water. This can cause injury and, in the case of stripping of female spawners, even severe deformations. This experience leads to acute stress in the animals.
Do you know what
you are eating?
On intensive farms, fish live in unhealthy conditions, consume valuable resources, threaten wild populations and disrupt the surrounding ecosystem.
Sea cages and land-based tanks are unhealthy environments where high fish stocking densities have a negative impact on water quality.
This promotes the transmission of bacterial infections and the spread of parasites. Vaccines, antibiotics and chemicals are given to fish on a regular basis.
Aquaculture was originally developed to stop the impoverishment of the sea and the ocean caused by fishing. However, most of the species raised on fish farms are carnivorous.
This means that farmed fish are fed using wild fish stocks. For example, it takes up to 3 kg of wild fish to produce 1 kg of farmed salmon.
Individuals or entire groups of farmed fish frequently escape from open sea cages. The effects on the environment and, in particular, on wild fish populations are dangerous.
Competition for food and the spread of diseases are among the most serious. The real threat lies in cross-breeding between farmed and wild specimens as this alters the genetic make-up of wild species, leading to ecological disasters.
OF MARINE ECOSYSTEMS
Intensive fish farms are a constant source of pollution, seriously endangering the marine ecosystem and the local fish fauna.
The release of organic waste and chemicals (such as medicines and pesticides) poses a serious threat to the health of the sea and the ocean, along with the biodiversity of the surrounding environment.
Fish production and consumption
in Italy and in the world
Global fish production
In 2016, global fish production peaked at 171 million tonnes, of which 90.9 million were caught at sea (73 million for direct human consumption) and 80 million came from fish farms. This means that aquaculture has become the main source of fish for human consumption, accounting for 53% of global fish production.
Source: FAO, 2018 -
The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA)
Per capita fish consumption in the world and in Italy
Per capita, the global consumption of fish products has grown exponentially in recent decades: from 9 kg in 1961 to 20.3 kg in 2016. Italy far exceeds the global average: fish consumption per capita was 28.8 kg in 2015, while the figure grew still further to 31.1 kg in 2016.
Source of data "in Italy": EUMOFA, 2018 - The EU fish market
Source of data "in the world": FAO, 2018 - The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA)
Main fish species
raised and consumed in Italy
In Italy, aquaculture production and the consumption of fresh fish products concentrate on four main species: sea bream, sea bass, Atlantic salmon and rainbow trout. Our country is the main producer of rainbow trout in Europe, while sea bream is the species of fish most commonly consumed by Italians.
Source: EUMOFA e Ismea (2018)
INTENSIVE FISH FARMS
First investigation in Europe
In 2018, Essere Animali carried out the first investigation in Europe inside the main fish farms in northern and central Italy.
In our investigation, we documented fish treated as objects, left to suffocate or bleed to death in containers of water and ice and even tied with string while they are still alive and gasping for breath out of the water.
HELP US TO SHOW THE WORLD WHAT’S REALLY GOING ON!
Thanks to our team of investigators, millions of people are discovering the reality of abuse and cruelty in farms and slaughterhouses. Our work saves animals and needs your support.