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Fish Farming Tanks vs Open Fish Pens

Open Fish Pens

Traditional fishing operations cannot keep up with the world’s ever-growing appetite for salmon and other healthy fish. Overfishing has threatened the wild fish populations as the fishing industry struggles to keep up. This is why, despite myths surrounding the process, aquaculture (salmon farming) is vital for the sustainability of salmon environments and ecosystems. 

Not only is farmed salmon better for the environment, but it’s also better for you. So, the decision between farmed salmon and wild caught salmon is clear for most people. But, the decision goes beyond farmed or fished. There are many salmon farming techniques, and it can be difficult to find enough information to determine which is best for you. 

Today, we’ve decided to clear the air about open fish pens and fish farming tanks. Each one has pros and cons that motivate consumer’s buying decisions. In the end, it’ll be clear which choice is best for your family! Here are the pros and cons of land and ocean farms:


Fish Farming Tanks vs Open Fish Pens

What are Fish Farming Tanks

On a land-based salmon farm, there are large above-ground cylindrical salmon tanks. These land-based systems keep salmon in freshwater recirculation tanks where they are cared for and monitored by the farmers. Usually, fish farms have dozens of individual tanks crowded with swimming salmon. Here is the breakdown of this aquaculture method:


  • Protects Ecosystems: When salmon are farmed in above-ground, isolated ecosystems, they pose no risk to any wild fish populations. Of course, these salmon have no exposure to other marine life. So, this farming method won’t cause negative impacts on other species either

  • No Risk of Escapees: Escapees in ocean farmed operations can threaten the natural wildlife ecosystem. This is because salmon are natural predators and can damage the ecological community. Since land-based systems have no connection to natural waterways, these fish farms pose no dangers to other ecosystems. 

  • More Controlled Environment: In fish farming tanks, everything is controlled. The fish farmers carefully regulate the temperature of the water. This, in many ways, keeps salmon safe and comfortable. 
  • Cons

  • Heavy Equipment: Land-based salmon farming operations require a lot of equipment to manage the artificial ecosystem. From water pumps, to computer systems, to cleaning mechanisms, contained land-based farms produce a substantial carbon footprint

  • High Energy and Water Use: As we mentioned, there is a lot of equipment that goes into managing an artificial ecosystem. It also requires a lot of energy and water. Because of this, recirculation aquaculture systems (like the ones in closed containment farms) have a significant environmental impact

  • Large Amounts of Land Use: The closed containment aquaculture industry requires a large amount of land to host their massive fish tanks. This results in the destruction of other plantlife and wildlife in order to make room for the big farms. 

  • Overcrowding and Disease: Many, but not all, land-farmed operations hold huge fish stocks that are overcrowded in their tanks. This results in more dead fish and dangerous diseases, like sea lice and kudoa. 

  • Less Humane: Salmon in above ground operations are in dark, crowded tanks with artificial currents. There’s nothing natural about the process and some argue the environment is a cruel way to raise fish. Other methods allow the salmon to continue living in their natural habitat. 
  • Fish Farming Tanks pros and cons

    What is Open Pen Fish Farming

    Open pen ocean farming is the sustainable salmon aquaculture method. Ocean fish farms have large open net pens that allow salmon to live in their natural habitat. The open nets keep them corralled while real ocean currents, real marine life, and real salt water flows through. 

    This method provides the best of both worlds: wild salmon populations are protected while farmed salmon live humanly in their natural environment. As you can imagine, there are more pros than cons to this option! Here they are:


  • Healthier Fish: We know that salmon is already nutrient dense with fish oil, antioxidants, and protein. But, salmon farmed in poor conditions in facilities that pump them full of growth hormones, dyes, and other dangerous chemicals diminish the nutritional value. For the healthiest fish, eat ocean farmed fish like Oshēn salmon that’s raised in the best conditions with no unnecessary chemicals and additives. 

  • Humane Conditions: Salmon in open net pens live in their domestic habitat with real ocean currents and marine life from their natural ecosystem. Plus, they’re well-fed with the highest quality food and given plenty of room to swim. Even the harvesting process is humane! 

  • Use of Natural Resources: Ocean farms use the natural resources of the open ocean to raise their fish. This is the most sustainable salmon farming practice, because it doesn’t require much equipment or other resources. This is good for you, the salmon, and our planet! 

  • Little to No Environmental Damage: Like we’ve mentioned, ocean farming uses mostly natural resources. So, ocean farming has little to no environmental impacts. It’s the best way to get the salmon we need while protecting the earth and the delicate wild salmon populations. 

  • Room to Grow: Whereas land farms require deforestation, destruction of ecosystems, and significant land area, ocean farms take relatively little space. Our massive ocean resources allow for large-scale salmon farming with little impact on the environment. There is lots of room to grow with this aquaculture method! 


  • Open Ecosystem: Ocean farming operations have open net pens that allow water to pass through. Of course, this means other marine life float into the pens and live among the salmon. This is actually great for salmon and the local ecosystem! Though, this type of open pen enclosure can become a problem if the net is compromised and salmon escape. Escapees can breed with other species and prey on other fish, changing the delicate ecological community. 

  • Less Control Over Conditions: We allow the ocean to do what it does best: raise beautiful marine life. It does this fairly well! But, with any natural process, mother nature is in control. Unlike in land-based systems, ocean farming can’t manipulate weather conditions, current strength, and other factors. 

  • Food and Feces Waste: With any farming method, there will be waste production. With closed containment tanks, the farmers send waste to management companies who flush it into local waterways. With ocean farming, there is no traditional disposal of the waste. It simply drops to the ocean floor and is carried away by currents. Some have seen this as a negative of ocean farming. Though, natural fish populations also produce waste that is released into their local habitat. 
  • Open Fish Pens pros and cons
    When scrutinizing close containment tanks and open net pens, it’s clear the natural ocean farming method is best for you, the salmon, and our planet. 

    There are many ways your salmon gets to the market. Whether it’s through traditional fishing methods, land farming, or ocean farming, you deserve to know what’s best for your family! Ocean farming methods like ours at Oshēn Salmon are superior. Don’t believe us? We’ve got Best Aquaculture Practice and Aquaculture Stewardship Council certifications to prove it! 

    Aquaculture is an important part of the food industry. But, it should still be sustainable and healthy. We accomplish just that with our ocean farming methods. And, with our direct-to-consumer and intuitive delivery system, your salmon arrives seven days fresher than the competition. Nothing beats Oshēn Salmon’s delicious, nutritious, and eco-friendly product. Try it yourself today and use code FRESH at checkout for 15% off your first order. Let’s grab a bite!  

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