Protecting the Future of Fish

Our ocean is our life support system, and a bountiful fish supply is one of its most precious resources.

Around the world, over a billion people rely on fish as their primary source of protein, and billions more value fish for sport and tourism. 

Wild fisheries produce enormous economic benefits to coastal communities and throughout the economy estimated at more than $90 billion each year. 

Decisions about the future of fish farming – including the role of genetically engineered fish – should not be made in isolation, or in ways that threaten the health of our ocean. 

When industrial agriculture first expanded, we didn’t have the science to protect the environment as we should have. Ocean Conservancy is working to ensure we get fish farming right from the start to protect the health of our ocean for future generations

Genetically Engineered Fish

Genetically engineering fish promises business benefits like fish that grow much faster and make it to market faster. That seems like good news for a hungry planet. But what are the tradeoffs? We don’t yet have enough science to know for certain, but what we do know is troubling. 

For starters, is genetically engineered fish safe to eat? Consider these differences between conventional and genetically engineered salmon: 

  • GE salmon have higher levels of a growth hormone that is known to cause cancer.
  • GE salmon may pose a greater food allergy threat due to higher levels of allergy-producing compounds.
  • GE salmon provide fewer health benefits, including 12 percent less of the healthy omega 3 fatty acids found in conventional farmed salmon.

As consumers, we want to know if the fish we are buying will affect our well-being, and Ocean Conservancy is fighting hard to get GE fish labeled.

Aquaculture in the Open Ocean

Aquaculture, or fish farming, plays an important role in sustainable seafood. But before the United States expands this industry into the open ocean, we need scientific answers to key questions. 

That means understanding what happens to the health of marine life and the ocean when drugs and excess nutrients from fish feed and excrement drift from aquaculture pens made of net into the open ocean. 

The fish themselves can escape net pens following damage from storms. Escapees can carry diseases to wild populations, consume wild fish and compete with them for food and mates.

Farming GE fish adds additional concerns. Some studies suggest that escaped GE fish could breed with wild populations and wipe them out in fewer than 40 generations. 

Growing GE salmon in contained, land-based facilities does not alleviate these concerns. Some re-circulated water is eventually released into the environment, providing an escape route for GE fish or eggs. Land-based facilities are also subject to natural disasters, human error or intentional sabotage.

At Ocean Conservancy, we believe domestic fish farming can help feed a hungry world into the future if done right from the start. That’s why we’re working to put strong national standards in place before the U.S. aquaculture industry expands into the open ocean. 

Join us in working to protect our ocean’s wild fish populations by ensuring GE fish are clearly labeled and open-ocean aquaculture is done right from the start.


Why the Ocean Matters

The ocean provides the air we breathe, the food we eat and the water we drink. Learn more about why the ocean matters to you.  

Vision for a Healthy Ocean

Ocean Conservancy works to keep the ocean healthy, to keep us healthy.

Our Solutions

We champion sound science that will lead to innovative, sustainable solutions.

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