Misconceptions about farmed fish

December 12, 2012

Misconceptions about farmed fish
 Napa Valley Register, Decmber 12, 2012

The letter from Gabriela Salva (“Farmed and dangerous: the dish about fish,” Nov. 30) was so full of untruths that it is an unwarranted attack on thousands of hard-working people who grow sustainable and healthy seafood. I plan to bust just a few myths in her letter:

Myth — There are “2 million aquaculture lots” in the Pacific Northwest.

Fact — There are several hundred salmon hatcheries and about 80 farms.

Myth — Aquaculture fish are “constantly doused with antibiotics.”

Fact — Most aquaculture fish receive an effective vaccination and are closely monitored by a veterinarian. As a result, medicinal use in aquaculture is rare — and unlike most other food growers, this information is available to consumers online.

Myth — Consumption of aquaculture fish “increases heart disease.”

Fact — The American Heart Foundation recommends eating fish (particularly fatty fish rich in Omega-3s) two times per week, and this includes farm-raised salmon.

Myth — Aquaculture farms have “crammed conditions.”

Fact — Fish naturally “school.” Fish farmed in the ocean are given ample room to range and raised at low densities that ensure the fish are stress-free.

To insist that “America be aquaculture-free” is akin to asking that all terrestrial agriculture cease. Seafood is healthy, and as our population grows, wild creatures in our lakes and oceans (like on land) cannot keep up with demand.

Aquaculture — growing catfish in freshwater ponds in Mississippi and ocean ranching salmon in Alaska and farming salmon in British Columbia — plays a vital role in providing healthy food and conserving our lakes and oceans.

I would encourage Ms. Salva to learn more about aquaculture before scaring people away from a healthy and sustainable food choice.

Ian Roberts, Salmon farmer / Campbell River, British Columbia

Here is the letter Ian responded to:

Farmed and dangerous: the dish about fish
Napa Valley Register, November 30, 2012

This holiday season, there are many things I am looking forward to. I am extremely excited to escape from the fast-paced college atmosphere and be able to relax with my family in Napa.

I cannot wait to catch up with childhood friends, and am especially anticipating the delicious home-cooked meals that will be waiting for me once I arrive at home.

Whether it is the tasty Thanksgiving turkey, my family’s traditional Italian Christmas dinner, or the array of appetizers that are served on New Years Eve, in my family, the holidays are a time to celebrate, share, and enjoy mouth-watering meals.

Although the menu changes slightly each year, there is one thing that I know will always be served during the holiday season: my mom’s famous grilled salmon — a meal so delicious that I request it every time I return home.

Salmon, in addition to many other varieties of fish, is a staple of my diet. It is a type of food that I never thought twice about consuming, because I knew it was not only packed with healthy fats and omega-3 fatty acids, but was also very delicious.

It was not until I came across old pictures of my sixth-grade class field trip to a Northern California fish hatchery that I began to think more about the fish I was consuming, considering how “natural” the salmon was that my family purchased at our local supermarket.

After researching the process that occurred before salmon was served on my plate, my perspective on fish drastically changed, as I was exposed to a world where fish were not natural or fresh, but rather, for the most part, farmed and dangerous.

I bet you did not know that

69 percent of the salmon sold in the U.S. is farmed, not wild — raised in packed aquaculture farms, floating feedlots that are home to more than 1 million fish crammed into a small cages (“Farmed Salmon vs. Wild Salmon,” Oct. 9, healthcastle.com).

I’m sure you were unaware that there are currently more than

2 million aquaculture lots located off of the West Coast, and that the fish in these farms are constantly doused with antibiotics and exposed to pesticides to prevent disease and infection (“What is wrong with salmon farming,” Oct. 9, raincoastresearch.org).

I can almost guarantee that you have not once considered the health and ecological implications that arise due to the current popularity of aquaculture farming. It is creating new forms of disease among other marine animals and humans, including increased heart disease and bioaccumulation of toxins.

The emergence of aquaculture in today’s world creates more harm than good, making a fish that was once very healthy, not so nutritious. Lacking high levels of omega-3 fatty acids, as a result of exposure to pesticides, aquaculture salmon are not conducive to the same health benefits of their wild kin.

In addition, as a result of the crammed conditions within aquaculture farms, fish are developing diseases that spread beyond the cages to other marine animals and humans, creating serious health and ecological consequences.

These truths are not being recognized by consumers, who purchase the “fresh and healthy” salmon they see for sale at local supermarkets, without inquiring about how the salmon got there in the first place.

During this holiday season, I urge you to think long and hard about where your food comes from.

Think about the health and ecological implications of ordering that salmon wrap, or asking for that specialty sushi roll; and take the next step and ask your supermarket if the fish they sell is free or aquaculture-grown.

Consider the concept of sustainable seafood, because turkey and chicken are not the only sources of protein that have the ability to be free range. Take the first step toward an aquaculture-free America: a country where fish are free, just as we are.

It is time to think about the fish on your dish, and the process it took to get it there.

Gabriella B. Salva / Durham, N.C.