Monday, November 17, 2008

The Dangers of Farmed Fish

“Eat more fish” is the mantra that we’ve been trying to follow for the last decade or so. But what kind of fish are we eating?

I’m not asking if we are consuming flounder, salmon or tuna. I’m much more concerned with the provenance of the fish we are eating. Is it wild or farmed?

To many, the question seems innocuous or immaterial. However, I consider it tantamount to knowing if your meat and dairy products are derived from grass- or corn-fed animals and if your fruits and vegetables are grown in soil awash with pesticides and chemicals.

Fish farms have many issues (some positive, more negative) associated with them, but the major problems that should be causing alarm are disease, the threatening of wild fish populations and the lack of flavor in the final product.

I’ll quote from three articles that have recently appeared in The New York Times. I highly recommend taking the time to read them.

The disease issue was touched upon by Taras Grescoe, who described how salmon in Canadian fish farms are attracting sea lice:
"To rid salmon of the lice, fish farmers spike their feed with a strong pesticide called emamectin benzoate, which when administered to rats and dogs causes tremors, spinal deterioration and muscle atrophy. The United States Food and Drug Administration, already hard-pressed to inspect imported Asian seafood for antibiotic and fungicide residues, does not test imported salmon for emamectin benzoate. In other words, the farmed salmon in nearly every American supermarket may contain this pesticide, which on land is used to rid diseased trees of pine beetles."
The threatening of wild fish populations comes about because a large percentage of wild fish caught is used for feed for farmed fish, denying other, larger wild fish their food supply. This from an editorial last week:
"According to a new report by scientists from the University of British Columbia and financed by the Pew Institute for Ocean Science, 37 percent by weight of all the fish taken from the ocean is forage fish: small fish like sardines and menhaden. Nearly half of that is fed to farmed fish; most of the rest is fed to pigs and poultry.

The problem is that forage fish are the feedstock of marine mammals and birds and larger species of fish. In other words, farmed fish, pigs and poultry — and the humans who eat them — are competing for food directly with aquatic species that depend on those forage fish for their existence. It’s as if humans were swimming in schools in the ocean out-eating every other species."
And for the flavor issue, this from yesterday's article by Mark Bittman, a Times food writer and author of “How to Cook Everything”:
"Farm-raised tilapia . . . is less desirable to many consumers, myself included, than that nearly perfectly blank canvas called tofu. It seems unlikely that farm-raised striped bass will ever taste remotely like its fierce, graceful progenitor, or that anyone who’s had fresh Alaskan sockeye can take farmed salmon seriously."

1 comment:

Erin said...

Hi there,
I just wanted you know that I read this article, went out for groceries & found myself NOT buying any Farm-Raised Seafood of any kind - I opted for the Wild-Caught Halibut, that of course, was twice as much - but also, twice as nutritious & natural, which makes the extra cost a pittance. ;) Right?