For a healthy heart, doctors tell us, fish is often a better choice than meat. It’s leaner and lower in cholesterol and saturated fats. More importantly, fish is higher in omega-3 fatty acids, a type of “healthy fats”, which are essential to our body as we cannot make them ourselves. This is why adding fish to your diet is a smart choice for your health. But is it?
Americans consume almost 6 billion pounds of seafood annually, mostly unaware that their fish of choice never spent a single day in the wild and the quality isn’t even close to what it should be.
The US imports about 90% of its seafood of which a large portion is farm raised, and some of the countries where these fish originate have very lax regulations. And if you think the FDA inspects all of these imports you’d be wrong. According to the Government Accountability Office, the FDA inspects only 4% of imported fish and only tests 0.1% for chemical residues.
Take Norway for example. Some salmon farms hold more than 2 million fish in crowded conditions which destroys the ecology of the seafloor. Parasites run rampant. Disease can spread rapidly, even contaminating and killing nearby wild fish. Some experts call these operations little more than floating pig farms. The dense overcrowding, which produces a layer of underwater waste that can be nearly 50 feet high, is equivalent to the sewage of a city of 10,000 people, according to the George Mateljan Foundation, a nonprofit whose mission is to help people cook and eat healthy.
Farm owners counter these problems by giving the fish vaccinations, antibiotics or pesticides which can spread to waterways up to half a mile away. The FDA warns that this can cause antibiotic resistant diseases in humans who eat the fish and yet, they still allow these fish to be sold in the US with inadequate inspections or warning labels.
Some fish are farmed on land in closed-containment aquaculture fish tanks resembling large above-ground swimming pools, where temperature and water quality can be artificially controlled. This method eliminates the controversial environmental and biological contamination found in coastal farms because the water is almost completely recycled and residual leftover food and fish waste are broken down into nitrogen and phosphorous rich fertilizer.
Critics such as the International Salmon Farmers Association, warn that land based profitability depends on higher densities than marine systems that can lead to abnormal maturation and decreased growth rates. In addition, once pathogens contaminate land-based fish farms, they are virtually impossible to remove until the system is depopulated and all its biological filters are disinfected.
Fish feed poses another health risk to humans. Wild fish contain healthy fats because they feed on algae, smaller fish, plankton and other sources. The farmed variety subsist on cheap feed containing processed vegetable oils, objectionable animal byproducts, soy, grains and synthetic antioxidants. This exposes consumers to pesticides, antibiotic residues, genetically modified ingredients and significant levels of chemicals and toxins. Research from the Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future reveals that some fish farms, to increase fish growth and profits, add pig and chicken feces to their fish food. Yum!
Fish fed soy feed produce more waste than other fish – more pollution the ocean is not set up to handle. GM soy is invariably contaminated with residues of potent glyphosate-based herbicide formulations such as Roundup which a growing body of research clearly shows is extremely toxic to aquatic life.
Farmed salmon contain 10 times more carcinogenic toxins (PCBs, dioxin, etc.) than wild salmon, according to a study published in the journal Science. Eating more than one meal of farmed salmon per month contains enough PCBs to raise cancer risk. Farmed fish are administered more antibiotics by weight than any other livestock. Seven out of 10 pieces of farmed fish tested had concentrations of cancer-causing PCBs high enough to trigger health warnings from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
So, the next time you’re faced with a piece of farmed fish, remember, no matter how innovative in automation and surveillance, this industry will never be truly healthy. The industry is driven by profit at the cost of nutrition, health, and the environment. These fish end up nutritionally inferior – the equivalent of a floating hot dog.
Thank goodness, by law all fish must be marked as wild or farm raised. Consumers should also look for packages with labels stating the country of origin. Avoid fish from China and Thailand. If the label shows Marine Stewardship Certified (MSC), this fishery is in accord with sustainability standards.
Source: Farmed Fish: Cheap on Wallet, Harmful to Health By Jorg Mardian; Frankenfish Anyone?, by FranklinCountyVAPatriots; 6 Reasons Why You Should Avoid Farm Raised Fish by Kelley Herring, the Healing Gourmet