Salmon is good for you, right? Our bodies need healthy the omega-3 fats that salmon provides, and salmon is also an excellent source of protein. But salmon is no longer a simple subject. In fact, before you put that piece of fish in your shopping cart, here are some things to consider.
More than half the salmon consumed in the United States today comes from fish farms. When fish farms were originally instituted, the salmon grown there were fed large quantities of small oily wild fish, such as sardines, herring, and anchovies. Populations of those small fish are becoming depleted under the growing demand of fish farms, however, and now the farms have substituted them with byproducts of hog and poultry processing, soybeans and soybean oil, canola oil, corn and other grains. Most of these products have been genetically engineered for the animal feed industry. They are also loaded with inexpensive, low quality omega-6 fats, rather than the beneficial omega-3 fats. Farmed fish are often highly polluted, as they are raised in small spaces amidst their own waste.
Here are six important reasons to avoid farmed salmon, in terms of both personal health and the environment:
1. Transmission of disease – The density of fish stocked in farms increases the danger of disease outbreaks, and the antibiotics used to control them is creating a larger problem of antibiotic resistance.
2. Sea lice – Sea lice are a parasite that poses one of the biggest threats to the salmon population, and infestation in farms is spreading into surrounding waters.
3. Escapes and interspecies impacts – The majority of salmon are farmed in open pens and cages along the coast, where the fish are targeted by predators such as seals and sea birds. Many salmon escape them by breaking out into the open water, posing a threat the the indigenous salmon population.
4. Salmon manure – Densely populated salmon farms produce copious amounts of waste. Along with antibiotics and pesticides, this excrement builds up under the pens, smothering parts of the ocean floor and eventually spreading into the wider ocean.
5. Endangerment of sea life – Seals, sea lions, and birds are often trapped and drown in salmon farm nets.
6. Algal blooms – Algal blooms result when hundreds of thousands of salmon excreting in the confined area of a farm create nutrient loading that may not be completely absorbed by the surrounding environment.
Give farmed salmon a pass. Instead, look for “Alaskan salmon” or “wild Alaskan salmon” and “sockeye salmon.” Both are assured to be wild.