Eat this fish

The other day, a friend asked me why I said he should not buy farmed salmon… not to mention shellfish from Asia, etc. I had some answers for him, but it’s a complicated subject. If you’re interested in eating sustainably, seafood is becoming a more and more difficult and confusing prospect, even though it’s healthy and low on the food chain, and therefore would generally be a more desirable form of protein.

So, I was really happy to see this guide to sustainable seafood, developed by a reputable source, the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It has local guides for various areas, a searchable database, and explanations for each rating. You can look up any fish or shellfish you like and find out which types are the best choice, which are good alternatives, and which to avoid – and a detailed explanation of why.

So for example, Alaska-caught wild salmon is in the “best choice” category. Washington-caught wild salmon is in the “good alternative” category – and farmed salmon from anywhere in the world, along with Atlantic salmon, are in the avoid category.

In case you’re wondering, farmed salmon are a major problem because:
– When they inevitably escape from their pens, they compete with wild salmon for food and spawning areas, and dilute wild species with inferior genes, producing salmon that are less able to survive in the wild
– Salmon rearing pens generate mounds of fecal waste on the bottom filled with excessive organic material, antibiotics, and pollutants
– Farmed salmon have parasites and diseases (from being raised in such close quarters) that can spread to wild fish
– Antibiotics used to prevent the above diseases are ultimately released to the environment and contribute to the spread of antibiotic resistant diseases
– It takes three pounds of wild fish to feed one pound of farmed salmon. Yes, they grind up fish and feed it to fish that don’t eat much fish. So in other words, for each farmed fish, three wild fish are lost. Not a good trade.
– Farmed salmon are pale and tasteless compared to wild salmon, like so much artificially grown food.

Is it really worth the few dollars you might save?


3 thoughts on “Eat this fish

  1. Dear Shadow…

    Seems like you’ve been been suckered into a good marketing strategy compliments of Alaska. Ever wonder why Alaska salmon is called “wild caught”. 1 in 3 salmon from Alaska may not be wild – raised quite similar to farm-raised salmon, except there let go into the ocean after being held captive for a year of two. When they return to the place they were born, they’re caught – hence the term “wild CAUGHT”. Instead of salmon farming, Alaska calls it salmon “ranching”.

    Not that there’s anything wrong with this. Your concerns above are also compliments of the same marketing strategy which simply attacks any competitors to Alaska salmon. If you’re concerns were really concerns, then how about comparing ranching to farming. Does ranching salmon eliminate concerns about gene dilution (by the way, farmed Atlantic salmon can’t breed with wild Pacific salmon), fecal waste or fish meal to fish conversion factors. Nope.

    You should ask the Monterey Bay Aquarium some serious questions – like why they won’t even talk about salmon ranching in Alaska. Ever wonder who pays the MBA to come up with their opinions?

    Search for “salmon ranching” in wordpress to find out more.

  2. I’ve not been suckered into anything. Ranched salmon doesn’t really sound any better than fish farms to me. I’m talking about truly wild salmon. If you have half a brain and you know the area you can figure out if they’re really wild or not.

    I wasn’t touting Alaska salmon over wild salmon from other places, except to the extent that there’s more of it, and their runs aren’t generally quite as endangered.

    The question really is, who do YOU work for? Your post doesn’t seem very neutral to me.

  3. […] PS – if you’re reading this, also take a look at this entry for more salmon recipes and this entry on wild salmon vs. farmed salmon. […]

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