Farmed fish are not always a better alternative

Farmed fish are not always a better alternative. 
Greenpeace released their grocery store rankings on sustainable fishing.  
Photo Courtesy/GREENPEACE
Salmon is not the only source of omega-3 fatty acids, but you wouldn't know it based on the media play this type of fish receives.

And that, said Suzanna Fuller, marine conservation coordinator for the Ecology Action Centre, one of the environmental organizations that make up SeaChoice, which promotes sustainable fishing, is "the aquaculture industry...hitting back."

Aquaculture is the farm fishing industry. Not all aquaculture is bad, said Fuller and Sarah King, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace in Vancouver, B.C., but some are not sustainable as one would think. Sustainable fishing is where fishes must be caught in a way to ensure long-term sustainability of the oceans and where the practice doesn't impact other species or habit.

Farmed salmon, for example, are grown in cages placed within the ocean. In order to be raised fast, the fish are fed high-fat fish, which then takes food away from wild stock. In the wild, fish eat shrimp, which are pink, giving salmon its pink hue. Farmed fish are then dyed to offer the same colour. The other problem with farmed fish in the ocean is there are so many fish in one area, so disease is common, which means the farmed fish have to be treated with antibiotics. Wild stocks are also at risk to catch diseases because farmed fish often escape from their enclosures, Fuller said.

Fuller and King both suggested people consume farmed fish raised in a self-contained unit or farmed shellfish, which often don't impact its local environment. If farmed fish is "going to impact the local ecology then it's probably better land based," Fuller said. However, self-contained units have a greater carbon footprint because they do not use the ocean's natural resources. "It's really throwing the natural balance off," King said of ocean-based fish farms. "Closed containment on land is definitely a better option." But King said farmers need to feed their stocks from vegetarian sources. And if you are looking for omega-3 fatty acids, mackerel is the way to go, Fuller said.

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