This article was beforehand printed November 21, 2020, and has been up to date with new data.
A rising curiosity in well being and heath meals has helped drive client demand for fish to an all-time excessive. A food regimen wealthy in fish has grown so well-liked that international fish consumption jumped 122% from 1990 to 2018, in line with the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).1
Fish is usually seen as a more healthy various to meat2 because of the so-called “benefits” on human well being and the setting. But is it actually more healthy for you and the planet? That all relies on what type of fish you are consuming and the place it is sourced from.
An growing quantity of fish available on the market — in eating places and grocery shops — is sourced from large-scale industrial fish farms. These farms depend on a poisonous cocktail of pharmaceutical medicine, pesticides and even genetically engineered crops equivalent to soy.3
Industrial ocean fish farms or manufacturing facility fish farms4 the place fish are raised numbering within the a whole lot of hundreds or tens of millions, usually in internet pens within the open ocean, pollute the setting with large quantities of fish waste and threaten already susceptible wild fish with illness.
Fish raised in crowded and unsanitary situations are, sadly, on the rise. The quantity of fish produced on fish farms skyrocketed 527% from 1990 to 2018, in line with FAO. There are a pair of causes for this spike, one being the world’s urge for food for fish is rising. Another motive is that, by 2016, 90% of the world’s wild fish shares had already been depleted resulting from overfishing.5
The result’s extra persons are consuming farm-raised fish produced on land in large tanks or in open ocean internet pens. In reality, the world now produces extra farmed fish than it does beef.6 And, 50% of the fish eaten worldwide is now farm-raised.7
Health Benefits of Farmed Salmon Versus Wild-Caught Salmon
Salmon is one of essentially the most extensively bought varieties of manufacturing facility farm fish, and salmon farms are actually the fastest-growing kind of meals manufacturing system on the earth.8 A fan favourite amongst fish eaters, salmon is usually a go-to for health-conscious shoppers. Loaded with nutritional vitamins, antioxidants and omega-3 fatty acids, salmon has all of the traits related to wholesome meals.
But salmon is simply wholesome whether it is wild-caught, that means it was fished from its pure habitat, the place it consumed pure organisms. Salmon will not be wholesome for you whether it is farm-raised. Farmed salmon truly has extra in frequent with junk meals than well being meals.
Farmed fish are raised on a food regimen of processed, high-fat, high-protein feed that may embody all the things from genetically engineered soybeans and pesticides, to polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and dioxins, to antibiotics.9 The dry pellet feed given to farmed salmon is what makes it so poisonous to you if you eat it.
The toxins in farmed salmon feed accumulate in salmon fats. One examine,10 which examined 700 salmon samples collected from around the globe, discovered PCB concentrations in farmed salmon are, on common, eight instances larger than in wild salmon.11
Farmed salmon normally comprise larger ranges of contaminants than wild salmon, partly as a result of of their elevated fats content material. So even when raised in equally contaminated situations, farmed salmon will soak up extra toxins than wild fish.
Farmed salmon additionally doesn’t have the dietary profile of wild salmon, containing far larger quantities of omega-6, which may have deleterious well being ramifications, seeing how most individuals are poor in omega-3 whereas getting much more omega-6 than they want.
Majority of Salmon Eaten within the US Comes From Fish Farms
With all of the farmed salmon floating round, you could be shocked to study that the U.S. captures almost one-third of the world’s wild salmon. But greater than half of it’s despatched abroad, the place it is deboned and processed utilizing low cost labor.
There was a time when our wild-caught salmon could be shipped again to us after processing however, in the present day, the bulk of it stays in Asia in consequence of Japan’s shrinking fish provide and China’s improved financial standing, which permits its residents the luxurious to buy it.
The result’s extra farm-raised salmon for Americans. Two-thirds of the salmon we eat right here within the U.S. is imported, largely from industrial fish farms in Chile, Canada, Norway and processing factories in China.12
Similar to industrial animal agriculture, farming salmon (and fish normally) on a big scale leads to an enormous quantity of animal waste or, on this case, fish waste. According to The Guardian:13
“A pen with 200,000 fish produces an enormous amount of waste. In nature, animal waste is not harmful; in fact it is often beneficial. But large concentrations of it can be destructive. The waste of wild fish swimming around is not harmful, but the waste of hundreds of thousands staying in the same spot is.”
Ocean Water Fish Farms Are Invisible Factory Farms
From an outward perspective, the environmental affect of massive fish farms can simply be obscured. Similar to manufacturing facility farms on land, which home massive numbers of cows, pigs and chickens but are sometimes saved out of public view, ocean fish farms are hidden from the general public eye. The fish pens are positioned as much as 164 ft beneath the floor of the water.
These seemingly invisible underwater pens can maintain as much as 200,000 fish every. In Norway — which has an enormous farmed salmon business — some fish farms have eight to 10 pens. That means manufacturing facility fish farms can home as much as 2 million fish, which is extra fish than the wild Atlantic salmon inhabitants of the complete world, The Guardian reviews.14
Fish farms of this scale require quite a bit of capital, which is why most salmon farms are owned by massive multinational firms.
Escaped Farmed Salmon Threaten Vulnerable Wild Salmon
Another main downside with open ocean fish farms is fish that escape. Whenever Atlantic salmon are farmed close to wild Atlantic salmon, mixing happens. When males escape, they often die off as a result of they don’t seem to be powerful sufficient to compete with wild males through the spawning course of.
But when females escape, they lay eggs which are fertilized by wild males. This is problematic as a result of the genes of farmed fish should not geared up to outlive within the wild. Farmed fish additionally lack the fundamental survival abilities that wild fish have. According to The Guardian:15
“Farmed salmon should not enormously completely different from one pen to a different. They have been chosen for quick development, and rising quick appears to be their main talent. They don’t have all of the particular survival abilities of the wild inventory. Although fast-growing, they solely develop for a short while and by no means obtain the dimensions of the extra slow-growing wild salmon.
This is one of the explanations that they don’t reproduce on the similar fee because the bigger wild fish. A salmon dwelling within the wild that has a farmed guardian and even grandparent is way much less prone to survive at sea, and, in actual fact, sea survival has declined in locations with farming.”
Farmed salmon that escape from ocean internet pens are so frequent that greater than one-third of “wild-caught” salmon from the Faroe Islands, tucked between Iceland and Norway within the North Atlantic Ocean (and politically half of Denmark), are literally escaped farmed fish.16
Fear of farmed fish escaping into the wild and threatening wild fish is why fish farming is now banned — and will probably be phased out by 2025 — in Washington state.17 In 2017, a fish-farm spill occurred off Cypress Island when a internet pen holding 263,000 salmon gave approach.
The farm’s proprietor, Cooke Aquaculture Pacific, tried to downplay the seriousness of the spill and initially stated solely round 160,000 Atlantic salmon had escaped. But it was later confirmed that the quantity was as excessive as 263,000.
Fish Farms Spread Parasitic Sea Lice to Wild Salmon
Cooke blamed the broken pens on a photo voltaic eclipse that introduced “exceptionally high tides and currents.”18 But an investigation by the state of Washington discovered that Cooke was negligent as a result of the corporate didn’t correctly clear the nets on the pens. This led to an extreme buildup of mussels and different sea life on the nets, The Seattle Times reported.19
The spill threatened native wild salmon together with the endangered Chinook. The concern was the farmed Atlantic salmon would crossbreed with the wild Pacific salmon and expose the wild fish to illness and pests equivalent to sea lice.
Sea lice are a significant downside for farmed salmon, and because of industrial ocean fish farms, it is now an issue for wild salmon, too. Sea lice that run rampant in fish farms can assault wild salmon swimming close by. Fisherman on the west coast have reported seeing wild salmon swimming close to fish farms contaminated with sea lice. The Guardian reviews:20
“Before there have been fish farms they [sea lice] didn’t pose a big downside. They roamed the ocean on the lookout for salmon, which make up a tiny minority of the fish inhabitants. One or two may connect themselves to a salmon, and the fish would dwell with the parasites till it returned to the river. Sea lice can’t dwell lengthy in recent water, in order that they fall off and die within the river.
Until farming, sea lice survived however by no means discovered enormous colleges of salmon on which to feed. Now they discover salmon farms with a whole lot of hundreds of salmon trapped in a single spot.
The lice eat the salmon’s pores and skin. It is tough to penetrate the scales in order that they assault the pinnacle and neck. They will fully pores and skin a fish’s head after which it’s going to die of publicity. Farmers discover the useless fish with uncooked skinned heads on the backside of the pens. It will not be uncommon to lose 1 / 4 of a pen. Sea lice are an enormous monetary loss for fish farmers.”
‘All Natural’ Atlantic Salmon Come From Fish Farms
Another downside with fish farming is that the businesses that increase farmed fish aren’t precisely truthful about their practices. Mowi USA, the world’s largest producer of Atlantic salmon merchandise, was accused of deceptive shoppers with false advertising and marketing claims.
Organic Consumers Association (OCA) filed a lawsuit in August 2020 in opposition to Mowi and Mowi Ducktrap for misleading advertising and marketing and promoting of smoked Atlantic salmon merchandise bought beneath the Ducktrap River of Maine model.21
Many well-liked smoked Atlantic salmon manufacturers lure in shoppers with deceptive claims equivalent to “all natural,” “healthy and nutritious” or “sustainably sourced.” But the reality is that every one smoked Atlantic salmon merchandise are produced from salmon raised on large industrial fish farms that, in some instances, are nowhere close to the Atlantic Ocean. As Katherine Paul of OCA writes:22
“Commercial fishing of Atlantic salmon — a species as soon as considerable within the wild however now almost extinct — is prohibited within the U.S. In the Gulf of Maine, they’re even protected beneath the U.S. Endangered Species Act. Similarly, in Canada, wild Atlantic salmon within the Bay of Fundy (positioned within the Gulf of Maine) are protected beneath the Accord for the Protection of Species at Risk.
That means all Atlantic salmon bought to shoppers in meals shops and eating places — whether or not recent, frozen, or smoked — comes from industrial salmon farms.”
To take motion on this challenge, please signal the petition telling Ducktrap of Maine to cease falsely claiming its smoked Atlantic salmon is “all natural.”
Enjoy Safe and Delicious Fish
From the poisonous medicine and chemical substances utilized in fish farming, to its environmental affect on wild fish and the false and deceptive advertising and marketing claims utilized by multinational fish farm firms, there are a lot of causes to keep away from farmed fish.
Instead, I solely suggest consuming safer seafood selections equivalent to wild-caught Alaskan salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel and herring. All of these are at low danger of contamination but are excessive in wholesome omega-3 fat, with out the issues posed by fish farming. You’ll wish to go for sustainably harvested wild-caught fish as nicely.
One of the perfect choices towards this finish is to search for the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) brand, which options the letters MSC and a blue examine mark within the form of a fish. The MSC brand ensures the seafood got here from a accountable fishery that makes use of sustainable fishing practices to reduce environmental impacts.23