Genetically engineered fish (salmon)
Almost 20 percent of the world’s seafood comes from farms. That can be good or bad depending on the species, and how and where it’s raised. Genetically modified organisms are one of the most ardently debated concerns associated with salmon and other fish farming. Currently, genetically modified salmon are on trail to become the first commercially developed animals approved for human consumption.Salmon are genetically engineered to enlarge/accelerate growth rates, better flesh color and increase disease resistance. The ability to make these changes declines production costs, increases the consumer appeal of the product by enlarging the size of the fish and improving the flesh color, and eventually increases profits. However the fast development of genetically engineered fish is posing irretrievable impacts on aquatic ecosystems. Researchers already are developing more than 35 species of genetically engineered fish (Salmon Information Center, Seattle and King County). As with the growing of non-native fish, the use and sale of genetically engineered fish in offshore and ornamental aquaculture facilities has serious threats to the variety and well being of native fish.
The release of genetically engineered fish can cause potentially destroying environmental and human health impacts. Many environmentalists have objection to the fast-growing salmon. They fear that such fish could endanger natural salmon if they run away into the wild. Researchers at Purdue University proved that if GE fish are released into open waters, they could cause the destroying of wild fish populations (GE salmon). Another trait that is currently being examined by genetic engineers is tolerance to cold temperatures. There are also problems about whether transgenic fish will be safe to eat. Currently no national or international regulations sufficiently protect the environment from the risks associated with GE fish.
The First Genetically Engineered Fish
In the early 1980’s, a cover story in Science attracted the attention of many scientists with the first report of dramatic growth increase in an animal through genetic engineering (Genetically Engineered Food Alert). A few years later, scientists in the People’s Republic of China presented the first genetically engineered fish. They inserted new growth hormone genes into goldfish, hoping to intensify the growth rates of farmed fish. Notably, faster growing genetically engineered fish could become the first animal GEOs used for human consumption. Genetic engineering has become a tool for altering characteristics in aquatic organisms beyond what was possible through traditional breeding.
Early achievements impelled laboratories around the world to genetically modify a variety of marine genetically engineered organisms (GE salmon). Some of these genetically engineered fish showed dramatically faster growth, achieving market size in one-quarter to half the normal time. These faster growing fish also converted food to energy more rationally- they need less food per unit of growth. Efforts then developed to insert a greater variety of fish genes in fish, shellfish, and algae. Marine GEOs are being engineered for aquaculture to produce human food, produce pharmaceutics, industrial chemicals or dietary supplements (Scientific analyses of the salmon problem; biodiversity collections).
Research and development of marine GEOs took off quickly for two primary reasons – ease and economics. Genetic manipulations are easier and often cheaper in fish and shellfish species than in land livestock such as chickens or pigs. The comparative ease of regenerating adult algae from pieces of tissue or primitive cells makes these aquatic plants main candidates for genetic modification. Aquaculture, the intended end use of many marine GEOs, is one of the fastest growing food-producing sectors; global production has grown at an annual rate of almost 10 percent since 1984 compared with 3 percent for livestock meat and 1.6 percent for capture fisheries, coming to 39.4 million tons of aquatic animal and plant production evaluated at U.S. $52 billion in 1998. Aquaculture is also the fastest growing sector of US agriculture, with the total value of products sold growing from $45 million in 1974 to over $978 million in 1998 (Salmon Information Center, Seattle and King County).
Farmed and genetically-engineered fish
Engineered an Atlantic salmon grow four to six times faster than normal salmon. Genetically modified salmon carry a “promoter gene” from either a flounder or an ocean pout that enables their hormone production genes to operate all year round. Transgenic salmon research has been carried out in Canada, New Zealand and Scotland, but operations have lately been halted. The salmon in New Zealand were reported to have extremaly deformed heads. In Canada, transgenic young coho salmon, fed with added growth hormone at the West Vancouver (BC) Research Laboratory, were three times longer and 30 times heavier than their non-genetically modified counterparts of the same age (GE salmon).
However, genetic engineering, as a cost reduction and profit increment practice, has some undesirable and unknown side effects on the environment and wild fish populations, as well as potentially ill-natured buyer health implications.
Sustainable seafood lists steer customers toward farm-raised shellfish such as oysters, clams and mussels. These shellfish are filter feeders, eating plankton from the water, and so do not need wild fish for feed. In fact, these species can ameliorate water quality.
Salmon is another subject. Unlike wild salmon from California or Alaska that is the best choice, farmed salmon is on the “avoid” list (GE salmon). Dense living conditions in net pens along coastal waters lead to disease, demanding use of antibiotics in fish feed. Steroids, chemical dips, vaccinations and added coloring also are extensively used in farmed salmon. Hundreds of thousands of farmed Atlantic salmon have run away, competing with wild salmon and attenuating native genetic stocks.
Most fish require eating other fish so catching wild fish to make into pellet feed for farmed fish means there are fewer in the wild to serve as prey for the wild ones that are left. It needs an estimated two to five pounds of fish to grow one pound of farmed brown shrimp. Most of the world’s shrimp are cultivated in Southeast Asia where coastal wetlands and mangrove forests have been destroyed to create room for shrimp farms. These coastal wetlands and mangroves were a natural nursery for many creatures of marine life.
Water dirtying from dense living conditions in coastal fish farms can severely influence traditional coastal economies. Aquaculture needs considerable investment, land ownership and large amounts of clean water, which most coastal people around the world do not have. Aquaculture as fulfilled by many nations produces shrimp and expensive types of fish only for exportation to wealthier nations, leaving most of the local people to struggle for their own needs in a degenerated environment.
“Open systems” with ponds or nets comprising the fish in wetlands or at river mouths are more problematic than closed systems in general (Genetically Engineered Food Alert). Some Atlantic salmon farmers in Maine use “open systems” and rotate their fish-raising pens to allow these areas time to recover. This is proving efficient in reducing disease and pollution.
Advocates for this technology assert that all salmon will be disinfected before being put in coastal net-pen facilities. But there cannot be 100% certitude that all salmon are sterilized, just as there can never be a 100% guarantee against all escapes (GE salmon). For example, years ago, the state of Virginia permitted the introduction of grass carp with the provision that they be sterile so the carp wouldn’t set up breeding populations in Virginia but there are now breeding populations of in Virginia.
Dr. William Muir, a professor at Purdue University, has claimed that genetically engineered fish could possibly cause wild fish populations to become destroyed because of to the conflicts between two fitness characteristics: mating success and viability. In spring of 2000, A/F Protein Inc. requested to the U.S Food and Drug Administration for approbation of its transgenic salmon (Genetically Engineered Food Alert). The company has applied for similar approbation in Canada. Also the National Academy of Sciences created a committee to study biotech food and environmental issues.
Scientists found when genetically modified salmon were kept in the same tank as normal salmon, the GM salmon ate their smaller-sized competitors and even devoured their own kind. This finding supported the theory that negative consequences resulted from a lack of food stocks. It also raised the anxieties of researchers for the potential harmful effects of releasing GM fish into natural waters.
What could happen if these GE fish escape into the natural environment?
Environmental risks of marine GE fish escaping from aquaculture systems vary depending on the facility and accessible environments but are noteworthy enough to raise science-based solicitude. The difficulty of forestalling large-scale escapes from some facilities, such as floating cages, adds to these concerns. For instance, thousands to hundreds of thousands of farmed salmon have escaped from fish cages harmed by storms, predators, and wear and tear.
The already exposed natural salmon supply would face further danger if they had to contend with GM fish for food supply and mates, which could ultimately force the natural fish to dying out. This is also famous as the “Trojan gene” hypothesis (Salmon Information Center, Seattle and King County).
Aqua Bounty Farm’s response to the escapees trying to reproduce in the natural environment was to cultivate only sterile females in the tanks. Other studies reported that if the GM fish escaped into the natural environment, their chances of survival was minimal due to their increased probability of contracting disease and their unawareness to the danger of predators.
Researchers have found that female fish cue in on size of the males as a mating preference. This is probably because the sensation that larger males are carrying the genes that save them from predators, permit them to forage better, live better, and be steadfast to disease. But in the case of larger generated fish, the males actually may have the “bad” genes. If females go on to be breed with these less “fit” males, the species could ultimately go extinct (Genetically Engineered Food Alert).
Advantages and disadvantages of marine GE fish
Different people and different environments could experience different profits or damages if businesses extensively adopted some of the marine GEOs presented in. How would this impact various kinds of producers, consumers, and ecosystems? The consequence will depend on characteristics of the GEO and the environments into which it might escape. The consequence will also depend on how the GEO is produced, patterns of consumer acceptance, and other main social and economic factors.
The environmental effects of prevalent adoption of marine GEOs would also depend on how farmers prefer to produce a GEO. Consider, for example, farming of growth-increased fish that reach market size in one-quarter to half the normal time and require less food. If a farm adopting such fish keeps up its current annual level of production, the local environment would benefit from a serious reduction in uneaten food and feces discharged from the farm and the potential to fallow the grow-out site during part of the year. Alternatively, the faster increase to market size might excite farmers to run 2-4 production cycles in the time formerly needed for 1 cycle (GE salmon). The same grow-out site would therefore produce to 2-4 times more feces and uneaten feed, which could highly degrade water quality and the health and survival of aquatic organisms in the affected waters. Water quality risks to be dirtied as the fish is grown in open floating cages, where the waste moves straight into the surrounding waters. The wastewater presented by fish raised in on-land facilities, from which the effluent comes out of a single pipe, can be more easily treated before being discharged into the surroundings.
Better food conversion of growth-enhanced fish presents an environmental profit by reducing fish farming’s dependence on feed components got from wild-caught fish, of which many species are over-fished. Salmon, trout and some other farmed fish need fish meal or fish oil in their food; better food conversion would reduce the quantity of these ingredients needed for each gram or pound of weight gain. If future prevalent adoption of faster growing genetically engineered fish excites an industry-wide increase in entire production of farmed fish, then the total amount of wild-fish components used by the industry would increase rather than decrease.
Are genetically engineered salmon different from wild salmon?
GE salmon is fundamentally different from wild or natural species. Genetically engineered salmon comprise unnaturally high levels of a growth hormone that would not occur in natural fish. These fish are growing two to three times faster than even farmed salmon grown under the same conditions.
Population effects of growth hormone transgenic coho salmon depend on food availability and genotype by environment interactions. In a head-to-head battle for food, normal coho salmon lose out to their genetically engineered cousins. Not only did the aggressive, gene-modified salmon eat up most of the feed when raised in tanks with ordinary salmon, but they also eat up their weaker neighbours – including their own type, British Columbia scientists claimed in the June 7 online edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (Salmon Information Center, Seattle and King County).
When food supplies are low, genetically engineered fish have a very important effect on the population, and laboratory experiments may not foretell what would happen if bioengineered salmon escaped into the environment.
The worst-case scenario involving transgenic fish is the “Trojan gene” hypothesis presented by Purdue University geneticist William Muir: genetically engineered salmon outcompete wild fish for food and mates, leading to less-firm hybrids and the eventual dying out of the total wild population. The net pens would hold only sterile females, eliminating the possibility that escapees could breed in the wild.
Washingtons Fish and Wildlife Commission prohibited genetically engineered fish from marine net pens, but the state has no rules that bar them from land-based tanks or fresh water. Oregon has alike limitations, while California bans the creatures entirely – including the fluorescent Glo Fish, a genetically engineered aquarium fish that continue selling last year (Genetically Engineered Food Alert).
Coho salmon overproduce growth hormone as a result of genetic tinkering. Aqua Bountys Atlantic salmon were engineered in a similar way, using genes from chinook salmon and a species called ocean pout. In both cases, the genetically engineered fish grow much faster than usual fish but don’t get much bigger at maturity.
Farmed and wild fish interactions
Farmed salmon, especially on the west coast of North America, are often from a different species than the local wild populations. Non-native Atlantic salmon grown in net pens in the Pacific introduces additional concerns of escaped fish negatively affecting the habitat and may also present new diseases (GE salmon). The possible interactions between escaped genetically engineered fish and wild populations are perhaps the largest threat associated with proposed introduction of genetically engineered salmon in coastal net pens.
As a consequence of successful mating, the farmed fish could bring the level of adaptation of the species down, since farmed fish are generally less adapted to life and survival in the wild. Farmed salmon happen to have any breeding advantage over their wild counterparts; escapees can take over wild populations, ultimately leading to a dying out of influenced wild population segments.
Given the doubt associated with the impacts of escaped farmed salmon on wild populations, genetically engineered fish introduce even higher risk. The numbers of escaped farmed salmon around the world are striking. Getting exact counts is very difficult or impossible because not all escapes are reported for various reasons.
More than 1 million Atlantic salmon have run away into the waters of Puget Sound in the last 10 years (Genetically Engineered Food Alert). Prior to 1996, though, no important escapes of Atlantic salmon from pens in Washington were reported. In 1996, 1997 and 1999, there were large escapes of nearly 107,000, 369,000 and 115,000 fish, respectively. In 1997, the Washington State Pollution Control Hearings Board claimed that Atlantic salmon are a living pollutant when they escape from salmon farms (Salmon Information Center, Seattle and King County).
Escapes in British Columbia: Escapes from net pens in British Columbia in 1994-1995 were evaluated to be nearly 60,000 fish (Genetically Engineered Food Alert). This is a decrease in escapes that had been reported in the early ’90s, but the recorded escapes in British Columbia only account for losses of important economic value. Total escape, combining chronic “leakage” of smaller fish that is not recorded, could exceed 100,000 fish yearly (Genetically Engineered Food Alert).
In Scotland, farmed Atlantic salmon escapes reportedly exceed catches of wild Atlantic salmon in that country by more than four to one.
Genetically engineering fish is an extreme risk technology with potentially disastrous sequels if the GE fish escape into the environment. Fish species used in aquaculture are very alike to wild fish and may live and reproduce in the natural environment and readily crossbreed with their wild relatives. Whenever a newly introduced gene increases the mating success of a GE fish while at the same time decreasing the viability of the offspring, a few GE fish could ultimately cause the extinction of healthy, wild populations. Over 35 species of genetically engineered fish – combining salmon, carp, catfish trout, medaka, zebrafish and tilapia – are being raised and studied all over the world. We are now just starting to learn the environmental sequences from growing transgenic fish, only after they were approved for human consumption. Researchers have discovered that the introduction of transgenic fish into a native fish population could lead to the dying out of a native species. Research on transgenic fish is still in the beginning stages (Scientific analyses of the salmon problem; biodiversity collections). Now we face an environmental menace. That danger is genetic engineering: the scientific process of forever altering wild organisms by altering their genetic code. Supporters say genetic engineering may cure some diseases and increase farm effectiveness, but at what cost? Eminent scientists warn that genetically modified fish should stay in the laboratory until we know how they will affect human health and our environment. Industry has disregarded this warning. Given the fact that there are so many unknowns and still cause for concern, the time to stave off problems is now, before irrevocable impacts to native fish and environment occur.
California considering ban on genetically engineered salmon. 07 March, 2005. <www.ENN.com>.
“Chefs shun fish with altered DNA. Some fear fast-growing salmon could affect natural population”. San Francisco Chronicle. Thursday September 19, 2002.
Genetically Engineered Food. 19 June 2005. <www.greenpeace.org/~geneng/>.
Kaufman M. “Atlantic salmon placed on endangered species list”. The Washington Post 14 November, 2000.
Genetically Engineered Food Alert. 12 June 2005. < www.gefoodalert.org>.
GE salmon. 21 June 2005. <http://www.foodsafetynetwork.ca/>.
Salmon Information Center, Seattle and King County. 19 June 2005. <http://www.salmon.gen.wa.us/>.
Scientific analyses of the salmon problem; biodiversity collections. 21 June 2005. <http://biodiversity.uno.edu/>.
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Salmon Fishing Essay
Salmon fishing the great lakes has never been better. Great numbers of king(Chinook), coho, atlantic, and pink salmon have been taken over the last few years. The fishing has been so good that it is one of the most uprising sports today in Michigan. Most of the salmon have been coming out of Lake Michigan and Lake Huron. These two bodies of water hold an amazing amount of fish just waiting to bite. All it takes to catching them is just getting out there and finding them.
The salmon fishing season unofficially starts during the spring. During this time of year the place to be is in the southern portion of Michigan. Warm water from water run-off and streams flows into the lakes, warming the shallow water. Bacteria and parasites swarm the area, developing and multiplying in great numbers. When this happens, bait fish move in to feed on these organisms. Along with the bait fish come the salmon. Salmon will come in and heavily feed on the bait fish. During this time is when you want to be fishing. You will have a lot of luck at this time of year.
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Following the spring salmon run is the summer fish. During this time of year the fish are a little bit harder to find. They will range in depths from anywhere in the thirty foot range to the one hundred and fifty foot range. A little trial and error has to be done in order to find the fish. Once they are located you can catch them in great numbers.
In the fall time, fishing can be great. At this time of year salmon are running into the rivers to spawn. To sustain their energy they eat a lot. This is why the fishing can be so good. Salmon of larger size are taken in large number. They are in very close and tend to school together. The smaller salmon tend to stay out deeper, for they are not ready to spawn yet. Fishing in shallow at this time of year will produce fish after fish on your boat.
The salmon season ends with fishermen lining the river banks and casting their bait into the currents. When it gets into the winter months the salmon head out into the deep water to avoid the freezing lake. The following spring will bring them back again.
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