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?