The rumours of the unhealthy, toxic farm-raised fish have been greatly exaggerated. Let’s set the facts straight.
MYTH: Farmed fish is less nutritious than wild-caught fish
First, think about what nutrients you would like to get in your body. Most of us eat fish and seafood to get the benefits of omega-3 fats. If this case is true for you, will it surprise you to know that a farmed Atlantic salmon contains more omega-3 than wild salmon?
Both farmed and wild-caught fish are nutritious and are nearly identical in calorie and protein content. The differences are not significant.
Your average wild-caught salmon contains higher amounts of potassium and selenium. If you need more vitamin A and folate, farm-raised salmon will satisfy this better.
MYTH: Farm-raised fish contain a lot of toxins compared to wild-caught fish
You may be concerned of the amounts of mercury found in fish. This mineral is present in most wild-caught fish, such as tuna, king mackerel, swordfish, etc. Common farm-raised fish like tilapia and salmon also contain low levels of mercury. Given that you consume fish once or twice a week, the mercury levels found in these fish should not be dangerous for consumption.
The other chemical toxin you may be concerned with are PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls). Contrary to what you might think, PCBs are found everywhere in our environment in very small amounts. Traces of PCBs are found in the soil, the air we breathe, and in natural bodies of water. This was due to the manufacturing and overuse of this chemical until it was banned in 1979. Since trace amounts are found everywhere, you will find that humans carry PCBs in our system, and naturally both farm-raised and wild-caught fish contain PCBs. The good news is that food loses some PCBs when cooked.
Learn more about PCBs here.
MYTH: Farmed fish are raised in inhumane conditions
While there are farms out there that perpetuate this notion, majority of fish farms follow standards to keep their fish healthy. Fish farmers work hard to keep their enclosures clean and disease-free, which in turn will produce more fish, help their profits, and satisfy the demand in the market.
If you would like to be sure of the source before buying farmed fish, check for the farm’s certifications like the Best Aquaculture Practices Certification or the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, or follow organizations that can help you guarantee the safety and cleanliness of the farm like Marine Harvest Canada.
FACT: Fish farms pose a threat to our environment
While farmed fish is absolutely safe to eat, particularly fish products from certified farms, producing large amounts of fish for mass consumption is toxic to our environment.
Any industry which involves overproduction of resources affect our environment negatively, and in turn this has a harmful effect on our lives.
To feed a mass of farmed fish, farmers often have to retrieve their food source from the wild (e.g. anchovies, or other smaller fish). Enclosures also tend to collect excrement and uneaten food if not well-attended, which leads to poor water quality with low amounts of oxygen and high amounts of ammonia.
Wild fishing is no exception. Overfishing has depleted some of the species in our oceans, which affects the survival of other animals dependent on them for food.
As consumers, the best way we can help improve our situation is to take these resources sparingly, and to minimize our food waste. Look for alternative sources of omega-3 which are most definitely found in plant foods such as nuts, seeds, squash, and leafy greens.
If more people practice healthy eating by adapting a more plant-based, whole foods diet, there will eventually be less demand for these food sources. With lesser demand, less factories can satisfy the market’s needs, and therefore will help improve our environment.