And the pond scum will be healthier than salmon for you & Planet Earth
HERZELIA, IsraeI; BATON ROUGE, Louisiana; WASHINGTON D.C.––Far from the longtime hubs of the salmon industry, along the coasts of the North Sea and the Pacific Northwest, the future of both canned and fresh salmon may be determined by desert greenhouses north of Tel Aviv, Israel, and U.S. federal courts in Baton Rouge and Washington D.C.
The combined effects of global warming and hydroelectric dams on salmon spawning streams, together with the fish disease and pollution issues resulting from salmon farming, have not yet sent either the wild-caught or farmed sectors of the industry into economic decline.
Salmon industry thrives on dubious claims
Indeed, the salmon industry as a whole appears to be far from flopping over dead.
Globally, the salmon market is reported by various sources to be worth anywhere from $30.5 to $50.2 billion now, and is expected to grow to $46.8 billion by 2026, $76.2 billion by 2028.
But those growth projections depend on the advertising-driven public perception that salmon-eating is healthy, ecologically sustainable, and that the same perceived benefits cannot be derived from a less expensive comparable product.
The Israeli vegan food start-up company Simpliigood on April 26, 2022 claimed to be close to marketing such a less expensive comparable product, partnering in research and development with IFF-Dupont.
IFF-Dupont is a spinoff that was formerly the International Flavors & Fragrances division of the Dupont chemical empire.
“100% pure, fresh, minimally processed” pond scum
The Simpliigood lookalike, taste-alike, smell-alike smoked salmon substitute is made from algae, otherwise known as pond scum.
But not just any pond scum. This pond scum, SimpliGood reassured salmon consumers, is “100% pure, fresh, minimally processed spirulina, a commonly occurring cyanobacteria, also known as blue-green algae, already widely used as a food additive and health supplement, processed to take on the flavor and aroma of real smoked salmon.”
Besides, spirulina grows on the bottoms rather than at the surface of ponds.
The characteristic salmon color, Simpliigood said, “is achieved by isolating a beta carotene pigment which occurs naturally in the algae.”
The Simpliigood salmon substitute is to be marketed by the end of 2023. Should it sell well, other spirulina-based fish substitutes may follow.
Note, incidentally, that pond scum, though not a salmon dietary staple, is part of the diet of many other fish species commonly raised and eaten by humans.
Among those species are catfish.
Catfish farming has been a major industry in Louisiana, Alabama, Mississippi for more than 50 years.
Catfish farmers, along with salmon farmers, might be expected to mount vehement opposition to the arrival in the marketplace of processed pond scum as a competitive rival to their products.
But U.S. District Judge Brian Jackson in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, on March 29, 2022 ruled on behalf of Turtle Island Foods, owner of the Tofurky brand name, that Louisiana’s Truth in Labeling of Food Products Act is unconstitutional in attempting to prevent companies from using terms associated with animal products and byproducts in describing vegan or otherwise plant-based foods.
Big fish eat little fish
In other words, Simpliigood is free to market “salmon-style pond scum,” or “catfish-style pond scum,” if it so chooses.
“The Louisiana law is similar to food-labeling statutes passed in Arkansas, Missouri, Mississippi and other states,” observed Sabrina Canfield for Courthouse News.
“A number of those laws are also being challenged by Tofurky, the Animal Legal Defense Fund and the Good Food Institute,” Canfield continued. “A judge in Arkansas halted enforcement of that state’s law in December 2019, finding it was likely an unconstitutional restriction on Tofurky’s right to free speech.”
Pond scum, or bottom-grown spirulina, is scarcely the only threat to the salmon industry.
Anchovies & sardines
“One of the great ironies of salmon farming lies in the fact that even though the salmon themselves aren’t wild-caught, their feed is partially made up of smaller fish that are,” noted Ben Coxworth, North America managing editor for New Atlas: New Technology & Science News on March 1, 2022.
“The study was conducted by scientists from the University of Cambridge,” Coxworth narrated, “utilizing data from the production of farmed salmon in Scotland for the year 2014.
“It was found that in 2014, 507,063 tons of wild-caught fish were used to produce 197,313 tons of salmon. Further, 76% of the wild-caught fish were species that are commonly eaten by humans, such as anchovies and sardines.
“Four million tons of fish could be left in the seas”
“Extrapolating those figures to a global scale,” Coxworth continued, “the scientists estimated that if people were to eat the wild-caught fish which are currently used in salmon feed, almost four million tons of fish that are presently caught could be left in the sea each year.
“At the same time, a greater volume of fish would become available as a human food source.”
So much for the notion that salmon farming is ecologically sustainable.
“Simple, sustainable” dead fish?
The Cambridge study appeared just a week after U.S. Superior Court for the District of Columbia judge Heidi Pasichow rejected a motion from the Icelandic fish production giant Aldi to dismiss a lawsuit alleging that Aldi ads describing farmed salmon are produced “sustainably” are deceptive to consumers.
“Filed in January 2021,” recounted SeafoodSource reporter Christine Blank, “the lawsuit alleges Aldi’s use of the phrase “Simple. Sustainable. Seafood” on its Atlantic salmon products “leads consumers to believe that the salmon was farmed in accordance with high environmental and animal welfare standards, but in reality, the salmon are sourced unsustainably,” according to the plaintiff organization GMO/Toxin Free USA.
“In denying Aldi’s motion to dismiss, Pasichow said GMO/Toxin Free USA had sufficiently alleged “factual content that allows the court to draw the reasonable inference that the defendant is liable for the misconduct alleged,” Blank summarized.
Subway sued too
The February 2022 ruling in the case against Aldi followed an October 2021 ruling in favor of Subway Restaurants Inc. in a similar case heard by Judge Jon S. Tigar in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California.
Tigar dismissed a complaint brought by plaintiffs Karen Dhanowa and Nilima Amin, but allowed them to resubmit the case, if they chose, with amendments.
Dhanowa and Amin “argued that Subway made intentionally false and misleading representations about the tuna sandwiches containing either sustainably caught skipjack or yellowtail tuna, or ‘tuna species that come from anything less than healthy stocks, for example albacore and tongol,” wrote Ron Ruggless for Nation’s Restaurant News.
19 of 20 “tuna” samples had no tuna DNA
“The lawsuit argued the plaintiffs were harmed by paying a premium price for a product that is misrepresented, and that Subway should have known about vulnerabilities in the tuna supply chain that could have resulted in the product being adulterated or inferior,” Ruggless detailed.
“Subway alleged the plaintiffs failed to prove they bought the sandwiches based on any alleged misrepresentations by the company.”
Reuters reported on November 11, 2021 that Dhanowa and Amin had refiled their case against Subway.
The refiled lawsuit, Reuters said, “relies on testing by a marine biologist of 20 tuna samples taken from 20 Subway restaurants in southern California. It said 19 samples had ‘no detectable tuna DNA sequences,’ while all 20 contained detectable chicken DNA, 11 contained pork DNA, and seven contained cattle DNA.”
Animal Outlook v. Cooke Aquaculture
Cooke Aquaculture, like Aldi a major producer of farmed salmon, in late June 2021 failed to win dismissal of a lawsuit brought by Animal Outlook, formerly called Compassion Over Killing, challenging claims about sustainability, the “natural” nature of farmed salmon, and observance of animal welfare standards made by the Cooke subsidiary True North Seafood and by the Wanchese Fish Company brand.
Compassion over Killing in 2019 released undercover video of alleged animal abuse at the Cooke Aquaculture salmon hatchery in Bingham, Maine.
“The Maine Department of Agriculture’s Animal Welfare Division investigated the incident,” reported Blank of SeafoodSource, “and found that no punitive measures were necessary after the company implemented a number of reforms.”
Red Lobster also accused
A similar case filed in the U.S. District Court for Northern California in June 2021 against Red Lobster “alleges that the massive restaurant chain’s farmed shrimp and Maine lobster are not sustainably sourced, as the company claims they are,” Blank said.
“Filed by a consumer in U.S. District Court in California, the complaint claims that Red Lobster’s shrimp is sourced from ‘industrial shrimp farms that do not employ the highest environmental or animal welfare standards,’ and that its Maine lobster is sourced from suppliers who use environmentally destructive practices that threaten endangered North American right whales,” Blank continued.
“Red Lobster’s shrimp is sourced from Indonesia, Vietnam, India, and China,” Blank explained, “and the complaint claims the farms there use unsustainable and inhumane high-density industrial farming methods,” involving alleged overuse of antibiotics to prevent disease outbreaks and alleged use of chlorine-based disinfectants.
“One shrimp dinner produces greenhouse gas emissions equal to driving from NYC to L.A.”
“The complaint also claims shrimp farm expansion in Southeast Asia is the single-largest driver of mangrove deforestation and the loss of critical habitat and carbon-absorbing flora,” Blank mentioned.
States the lawsuit, “Researchers have calculated that the mangrove deforestation involved in the production of a single shrimp dinner produces greenhouse gas emissions equivalent to a road trip from New York to Los Angeles.”
“In April 2020,” remembered Blank, “the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia held that inadequate regulation of the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery violated the Endangered Species Act and found that the fishery ‘had the potential to harm the North Atlantic right whale at more than three times the sustainable rate.’
“As a result,” Blank said, “in August 2020 the Marine Stewardship Council suspended its sustainability certification for the Gulf of Maine lobster fishery.”
Red Lobster charges a premium for its dishes based on sustainability claims, according to the lawsuit.
Endangered eels sold for sushi
The Norwegian farmed salmon producer Mowi in March 2021 reportedly paid $1.3 million to settle a similar case brought by the Organic Consumers Association against Ducktrap River of Maine, a Mowi subsidiary, alleging that Ducktrap River sustainability claims were false.
More such cases may follow the forthcoming prosecution of American Eel Depot and eight individuals, the biggest eel dealer in the U.S., operating out of New York, New Jersey, China and Hong Kong,, for allegedly importing 138 containers of meat from critically endangered European eels, worth about $160 million.
Relabeled “American eels,” the European eels were allegedly sold for sushi.