Scots Say Farmed Salmon Is Ruining Their Environment

Want to help? Stop eating it

Michael Scaturro


Photo: Maarten Wouters/Stone/Getty Images

At gas stations in central European towns known for their goulash, salmon sushi rolls sit in black plastic containers, peering out from under clear covers in refrigerator cases next to blended coffee drinks. Before the salmon made its way to the gas stations, it almost certainly lived in farms situated in the chilly coastal waters of Norway, Scotland, or Chile.

Nearly all of the salmon we eat — from gas station sushi to luxurious salmon steak — started life in such farms. The business of raising salmon on farms started 50 years ago in Norway after overfishing made Atlantic salmon scarce. Norway, still the largest player, now faces competition from countries with weaker environmental regulations, like Scotland. Scotland enjoys the unique fortune of being a place that most people know so little about that when promoted as an oasis of whisky, craggy rocks, pristine waters, and briny foggy sunsets, people believe the story.

Along Scotland’s western coastline, multinational corporations raise salmon for European, American, and Asian customers, whose thirst for the fish’s luscious pink meat seems unquenchable. The industry is set to grow 5 percent this year, and Scotland’s boutique brand all but assures it a slice of that business. Salmon-farm companies and…