If you’ve ever begun a diet or tried to eat healthier, you’ve probably incorporated fish into your meals. Fish have been praised as a wonderful and healthy source of protein and fats like omega-3s for a long time. The problem with this is that nowadays, seafood found in the supermarket tends to lack all of that good stuff we’re told to incorporate into a healthy lifestyle. You’ve probably heard all the buzz about wild caught seafood and you might have even heard all the dirty rumors about farm-raised fish- and if you haven’t- I’m here to tell you.
The dangers of farm-raised fish are very similar to the dangers of CAFO (confined animal feeding operations) livestock. While fish farms are sometimes thought to combat overfishing, they actually threaten sea life in a variety of ways in addition to creating an unhealthy space for the intended seafood product.
Not only that, but farm-raised fish does not swim nearly as much as wild caught fish- which is how fish acquire their omega-3 fatty acids. Instead, farm-raised fish are exceptionally high in the omega-6 fats– the ones cause inflammation when not balanced!
Are Farmed Fish More Environmentally Friendly?
The short answer is no. Farmed fish are raised in confined environments called aquafarms and sometimes referred to as “floating pig farms”. A decent sized salmon farm produces excrement equivalent to the sewage of a city of 10,000 people, researchers from the George Mateljan Foundation noted. Due to the insane amount of fish waste and feed that accumulates and drops to the seafloor, the seafloor becomes a breeding ground for bad bacteria that harms other marine life.
As for fish farms claiming to combat overfishing- they actually contribute to it. To produce 1 pound of farm-raised salmon it takes about 2.5-4 pounds of other fish to feed them. In addition, about 1 million farm-raised fish escape from holes in the aquafarm net leading to cross-breeding of wild fish and an increase in competition for food.
Even scarier, drugs given to farmed-fish (which allow them to grow 6 times faster than normal fish) not only threaten wild species but also affect them if interbred.
Antibiotics and Pesticides
Other dangers of farmed fish include antibiotics and pesticides. Fish farmers provide antibiotics to fish to ward off diseases that are often a result of crowded conditions. Unfortunately, fish are becoming resistance to this treatment, meaning those diseases are still likely. Not only that but when we consume farm-raised fish we are also consuming the antibiotics they are given.
In addition to feeding fish antibiotics, fish farmers also treat their fish with pesticides to fight sea lice. The pesticides used to destroy sea lice concentrate in the fat of the fish and circulate through the ocean. PCB’s (polychlorinated biphenyls) are cancer-causing pesticides that are found in farmed-salmon concentrated at a rate 16 times higher than wild-caught salmon.
While all of this information is very unsettling, there is still hope in the health of wild-caught seafood.
Benefits of Wild Caught Fish
We know that salmon is (or at least should be) a fabulous source of our essential omega-3 fatty acids. We must obtain these omega-3’s through foods because our bodies are unable to produce them. When we have a proper balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids our bodies are healthy! When we consume too many omega-6 fatty acids (think fried foods and now farm-raised fish) inflammation can wreak havoc on our bodies. That’s why it is important to obtain omega-3 fatty acids to balance that out- and that’s where wild-caught fish (especially salmon) comes in.
In addition to fatty acids, wild caught, cold water fish (like salmon) are also a good source of nutrients. Get vitamin d, vitamin B6, vitamin B12, phosphorous, magnesium, selenium, niacin, and protein by incorporating wild caught fish into your diet.
- Kendall Reagan Nutrition Center. “Wild Caught vs. Farm Raised Seafood.” College of Health and Human Sciences, 25 Jan. 2019, chhs.source.colostate.edu/wild-caught-vs-farm-raised-seafood/.
- Reasoner, Jordan. “Farmed Vs. Wild Fish: Which Is Better For A Healthy Gut?” Healthy Gut Company, 7 Dec. 2018, healthygut.com/articles/farmed-vs-wild-fish-and-gut-health/.
- Axe, Josh. “The Dangers of Farmed Fish.” Dr. Axe, 12 Oct. 2018, draxe.com/the-dangers-of-farmed-fish/.