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Fish Farming

Rapid industrialization of the fishing industry has come at the expense of sustainability. If current consumption rates persist, some scientists have estimated that our fish stocks will collapse by the middle of this century, crushing the livelihoods of millions of people and eliminating a critical food source.

Industrial fishing is associated with a number of problems, including overfishing of various species and unnecessary killing of commercially useless bycatch including dolphins, whales, sharks, other fish, and seabirds. Certain industrial fishing methods also damage ecologically sensitive areas.

However, fish farming can also create problems. Ecologically valuable habitats have been destroyed and local peoples have been displaced and lost their livelihoods to make room for fish farms in many countries. Also, farmed fish are more inclined to suffer from diseases due to crowding, and sometimes they escape and infect wild fish or reduce their biodiversity by interbreeding with them. In addition, poorly managed fish farms are sources of pollution such as toxic chemicals, antibiotics, and fecal matter that spill over into local ecosystems.

Fish is among the most health-promoting foods. It contains lean protein and omega-3 fatty acids that provide a number of benefits ranging from cardiovascular protection to reduced risk of depression. According to the George Mateljan Foundation (2012), farmed salmon is lower in protein and usable omega-3 fatty acids than wild salmon and higher in omega-6 fats (which can trigger inflammation and other health problems when consumed in a high ratio to omega-3s). It’s also often contaminated with pesticides and antibiotics and must be died pink with synthetic pigment because farmed salmon don’t have the opportunity to develop their color naturally by eating pink krill.

Not all fish farms or industrial fishing operations are bad, and many grocery stores, fishmongers, and restaurants now offer sustainably caught or farmed fish. The Marine Stewardship Council provides a searchable global database of sustainable fish products.

Sources

George Mateljan Foundation, “Is There Any Nutritional Difference Between Wild-Caught and Farm-Raised Fish? Is One Type Better for Me Than the Other?” World’s Healthiest Foods, 2012. http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=george&dbid=96

Sustainweb, “Plenty More Fish in the Sea…?” 27 April 2011. http://www.sustainweb.org/sustainablefood/plenty_more_fish_in_the_sea/

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