Our voracious and, until recently, undiscerning appetite for seafood has depleted the oceans, which is why farmed fish has become popular with eco-minded consumers. But most fish-loving Westerners are blissfully unaware, chomping on their salmon steaks, that this seemingly more sustainable strategy wreaks havoc south of the border.
In Chimbote, Peru, a gang of 40 smoke-spewing plants churn out fishmeal, the cuisine of choice for carnivorous farmed fish such as salmon. Fishmeal is made from oily fish like anchovies, whose massive removal from Peru’s Pacific waters may disrupt the marine food chain. What’s more, according to the Ecologist (Jan. 2009), the plants are polluting the area: Residents report a host of health problems, especially in children, including asthma and other bronchial afflictions. When the factories are operating at full bore, reports the U.K.-based environmental magazine, “billowing black smoke drifts through the streets, obscuring vision and choking passersby. It looks like the aftermath of a bomb or a major fire.”