The great debate
To some, eating a farm-raised fish is no better than eating a beakless chicken grown in a science lab. The argument is that the antibiotics, pesticides, and artificial dyes used by some fisheries produce fish that are not only nutritionally inferior – containing more fat and more pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids – but downright dangerous to eat. According to Peter Bridson, Aquaculture Research Manager at Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, the brouhaha over farmed fish began back in 2003, with a controversial report from the Environmental Working Group that showed farmed salmon in U.S. grocery stores contain 16 times more of the potentially cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) than their wild counterparts.
Is there such as thing as legitimate, well-run aquaculture? Yes. O’Shea likens small-scale artisanal fish farming to any other kind of farming, stating that coastal people have been practicing responsible aquaculture for centuries. The problem, as with other kinds of farming, came when fish farms began producing on a large scale for commercial export. “You can’t apply the factory system to living things,” says O’Shea.
What to buy
Instead of going by “wild-caught” verses “farm-raised,” the general consensus from Bridson, O’Shea, and both the Marine Stewardship Council and the WWF, seems to be: shop by sustainability. This is defined by Seafood Watch as “being from sources, either fished or farmed, that can exist over the long-term without compromising species’ survival or the heath of the surrounding ecosystem.”
How to buy
How do you know what’s sustainable? There’s an app for that, of course. Seafood Watch has created both a printable pocket guide and an app to help shoppers know on the go.