Is That Salmon Really Wild?
By Annie Hauser Everyday Health
Farmed Salmon vs. Wild Salmon
Something might be fishy at your local supermarket.
That wild fish you're shelling out for might be a bit more tame than the label indicates, says the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California-Santa Barbara. Truth is, some fish sold might actually be a mix of wild caught and farmed-raised, researchers wrote in a paper published on Monday in the journal Marine Policy.
For example, an estimated 40 percent of the Alaskan salmon sold originates in fish hatcheries, even though it's labeled "all wild, never farmed," researchers say. Instead of sticking this fish with a "wild" label, the researchers call on seafood producers to label these foods as "hybrids" — a term they say will be essential for future fish production.
Fisheries traditionally interact with fish when they are captured, whereas farm-raised fish, or aquaculture, "controls the entire life-cycle of the organism, from egg to harvest," says Stanford University's Dane Klinger, who wrote the paper on the issue. Many types of seafood and shellfish use a combination of these techniques, of which most consumers are unaware, Klinger says. Because of an increasing demand for fish, this type of harvesting is essential to the fish industry, say Klinger and her co-authors.
Wild vs. Farmed Salmon
The health community prefers wild salmon. Polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), or synthetic chemicals, were added to paint, plastics, and other products until the 1970s and have found their way into fish, explains Harvard Medical School. A landmark study in 2004 found that PCB concentrations were almost eight-times higher in farmed fish because of farm-feed contamination. However, subsequent studies, including one in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that the health benefits of eating the omega-3-rich fish outweighs the potential dangers of PCBs.
An evaluation has not been conducted to determine the PCB risk in hybrid-raised fish.
Whether you're for or against farm-raised salmon, transparency is key, say the paper's authors. Both fisheries and aquaculture do not provide enough fish to feed the world's growing demand, they say, so a combination of fishing techniques is likely to become more popular.
"Seafood production is a critical part of global food security, but the way we study and talk about it often obscures how to achieve the thing we care the most about: increasing the supply of sustainably produced seafood to feed a rapidly growing human population," wrote researcher Mary Turnipseed in a release. "We need to start collecting more accurate data on how seafood is really produced in today's world, and a first step will be through replacing the old farmed-fished dichotomy with a farmed-fished-hybrid classification scheme."