Farmed v.s. Wild Fish
To support your heart and brain, doctors are encouraging us to consume good dosages of Omega-3 fatty acids. The best source for this powerful nutrient is found in the fish we eat. As the summer months get hotter and the days longer, the taste of a nice fish filet on a bed of leafy greens promises to satisfy hunger and promote optimal health.
The alarming news however, is that our love of seafood poses a greater threat to the environment and the optimal health we are all looking for. Oceans are being "fished out" and the contamination of heavy metals and pollutants in our waterways increases the risks involved with consuming farm raised and wild fish.
The farmed versus wild debate can be approached from a few directions. The first concern is the dangers that both fish present.
Wild Fish Concerns
Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) and Mercury can be found in polluted waters. If a fish is contaminated there is not much that can be done. Because the pollutants build up in the muscle rather than the fat, it cannot be trimmed away. Children and pregnant or nursing women must be particularly careful to avoid predator species of fish like swordfish or shark. PCBs accumulate in many fatty fish such as salmon. The good news is that by reading labels you can greatly reduce your risk of contamination and reap the benefits of consuming fish.
An additional concern is that 75 percent of the world's fish species are being caught at maximum levels or are near collapse from overfishing! To be sure you are not contributing to overfishing make sure to buy fish that are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (For more information see the Learn Your Labels! Article).
Farmed Fish Concerns
Fish farming involves fish that are confined in "net pens" or cages and can thus be cause for great concern. Because the net pens and cages promote crowding among the fish, the conditions often require the use of antibiotics, and anitparasite pesticides. Additionally, spilled food and feces from the large volume of fish can pollute the surrounding waterways. Farmed fish can also escape from the pens and spread disease in the surrounding waters. The safest way to prevent these risks is to avoid farmed fish, unless you know it was farmed in a safe manner. Look for fish wearing the EcoFish Marine Stewardship Council label. We don't yet have standards for certified organic farmed fish in the US.
Since 2005 grocery stores must list whether fish is farmed or wild and where it was caught on its label. So take the time to read labels and get your healthy dose of Omega-3s!