Debunking myths of farm-raised fish
Seafood is one of the most popular sources of protein worldwide. As recorded by WWF-Malaysia in 2014, Malaysians consumed about 56.6 kg of seafood and the consumption rate continues to increase. Almost half of the seafood we eat comes from farms.
However, the rapid expansion of the aquaculture industry has not come without consequences. Though farming practices continue to improve, many consumers still view farm-raised fish as unnatural or bad. There is a lot of debate on whether wild-caught or farm-raised fish is better for the environment but it all depends on whether the fish farms are managed responsibly or not.
GST Group Sdn Bhd farm, located east of Pulau Jerajak
As a conservation organisation, WWF partnered with IDH (Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative) to found the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) in 2010 as an independent not-for-profit organisation. The ASC's mission is to ensure aquaculture in Malaysia adheres to principles of environmental sustainability and social responsibility.
One of the cages of Trapia Malaysia located in Tasik Temengor
Here are some commonly held myths about farm-raised fish (in Malaysia) and the truth behind these claims
Myth: Farm-raised fish are kept in overcrowded cages or tanks This is fortunately not true for most ASC-certified fish farms. The fish are raised in a carefully monitored environment that is best suited for each species. For example, GST Group Sdn Bhd practices the marine cage culture method that ensures the safety of the fish and also the cleanliness of the ocean.
Myth: Wild fish taste better than farm-raised fish This is where responsible aquaculture plays an important role. Aquaculture has the ability to take it in different directions in terms of taste and flavour without using any preservatives or colouring. According to WWF-Malaysia, GST Group and Trapia Malaysia, farm-raised fish taste better and fresher since they feed their fish their own personalised pellets. Also, responsible aquaculture requires fish farmers to have proper water management so that the water the fish swim in is suitable for them and will not cause any diseases.
Myth: Farm-raised fish are poisonous and hazardous to humans The ASC does not allow unnecessary use of antibiotics and chemicals. Only fish that are ill are fed a reasonable amount of antibiotics and kept in different cages. There are also fish farms that do not give their fish antibiotics but instead use natural organic solutions and minimal chemicals. For example, GST Group Sdn Bhd strictly refrains from antibiotics.
Myth: Fish farming harms the environment and pollutes the ocean Again, if fish farming was conducted irresponsibly, yes. But farms that conform to ASC guidelines will feed their fish specialised pellets whose ingredients are environmentally friendly. The ASC standard also requires the tanks and cages be frequently cleaned and monitored to avoid pollution. This myth also gives the perception that fish farmers do not care about the environment. Unfortunately, there are some who are irresponsible and only care about profits. This is why WWF-Malaysia is trying to educate more farmers and suppliers about responsible aquaculture.
Do head over to the Sustainable Seafood Festival (SSF17) organised by WWF-Malaysia at the 1 Utama Shopping Centre (New Wing) from 24-28 May 2017. You'll get to learn more about what makes seafood sustainable and participate in some fun activities. Plus, there will be live cooking demonstrations!
Remember! Not all farms are sustainable and we as consumers must be aware and try to eat only sustainable ones that are ASC-certified.