Effect of feed and feeding in the culture of salmonids on the marine aquatic environment: a synthesis for European aquaculture
While marine aquaculture has grown rapidly, so have concerns regarding the environmental impacts caused by the industry. In particular, increasing discharges of solid and dissolved fish excretions, nutrients and therapeutic chemicals have coincided with greater public awareness of the possibility of environmental damage. This has stimulated a number of criticisms, drawn from a wide spectrum of interests, ranging from the use of natural fish stocks to produce fish meal for aqua feeds to the effects of enhanced nutrient input on the coastal marine environment. The present study reviews available information on the environmental effects of feeding practices in salmonid aquaculture in Europe. Accumulation of waste food and fish faecal material results in changes in the sediment under fish cages, characterized by a low redox potential, high content of organic material and accumulation of nitrogenous and phosphorous compounds. Although significant environmental impacts have been reported in the literature at distances of up to 100 m from the cages, in general such impacts are reported to be localized to within 20 - 50 m around the cages. For farmed salmon and trout, mass balance models have been developed for nitrogen and phosphorus, indicating that 50% of the nitrogen and 28% of the phosphorus supplied with the food is wasted in dissolved form. The maximum nutrient release can be estimated from the hydrographic conditions in the immediate vicinity of the farm, such as water volume, tidal water exchange and currents. At present production levels, improvements in the feeding efficiency and feed quality of aquafeeds could reduce waste and consequent environmental impacts.