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Farmed or Wild?

December 29, 2009

As if we need yet another choice at the grocery store (organic or local? paper or plastic?) we now get to think about whether we should purchase wild caught or farm-raised fish. Though both options seem to have their downsides, I am leaning more towards eating SMALL amounts of wild caught and here’s why:

fish farm; photo via flickr user voux

To feed farmed salmon (for example), we’re actually draining the oceans of other species of fish. To produce one pound of farm-raised salmon, you need three pounds of wild fish such as sardines, anchovies, herring and mackerel among others. These smaller fish are what sustain the majority of marine life and we are depleting the resource rapidly. According to the Pure Salmon Campaign, two-thirds of a farmed salmon’s diet is fishmeal or fish oil, both products of these smaller wild fish.

To combat this issue, we are getting closer and closer to implementing the same type of system that we devised for agriculture. And that system is to find the cheapest, quickest most efficient source of protein. Whether it be a soy-bean based diet, a corn based diet, or a mixture of animal by-products, we are about to change the type of protein fish eat. In essence, engineering our food.

There are a multitude of other problems associated with farming fish, but one of the biggest is the spread of sea lice from farms to wild populations. Watch this video to learn more about how open net fish farms are affecting wild populations of salmon, particularly in the Pacific Northwest:

It’s time we take a closer look at the systems that produce our food, particularly aquaculture. Many generations, populations and cultures have subsisted on fish as a sustainable, healthy source of protein that also nourishes surrounding ecosystems.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Chris Bruinig permalink
    December 30, 2009 4:52 pm

    Now to fill in the gaps in your opinion:

    1. Farmed salmon convert “fish to fish” at a much more efficient rate than you quote. The ratio is about 1.5:1. But more importantly, salmon aquaculture only uses about 10-15% of the available fish meal/oil combined. The remaining 85% is used for other aquaculture species, pigs, poultry, hobby aquariums, tourist aquariums and pet food. Fish, particularly salmon are the most efficient converters of ‘fish to protein’ (pigs convert at 3:1 and chickens at 2:1). Lastly, the question really is; is the fish meal fishery sustainable and if yes, what is the most efficient use of this fish meal?

    On the same point, you are also missing the fact that a large percentage of your “wild” salmon are actually from ‘aquaculture’ facilities. They are raised in hatcheries and let go into the ocean to compete for food with natural salmon – they also consume fish meal/oil throughout their lifecycle. Last year, Alaska’s salmon catch was comprised of 40% hatchery fish – they are commonly refered to as ‘ocean ranched salmon’.

    2. The video you quote is now outdated. The update to the story is this: the Pink salmon that were forecasted to be wiped out by a few “scientists” (sorry, but I have to put quotes around that loosely used term) returned in record high numbers in 2009. Yep, record high numbers. This leaves two options: #1, the issue was far overblown by those paid to overblow it or, #2, the issue has been recognized and dealt with by salmon farmers. I’ll choose a combination of both options.

    Enjoy your burger tonight, no concern with that….right?

    Chris

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