Ocean sustainability author affirms range of threats posed to wild Pacific salmon by factory-farmed fish, and echoes our concerns about human health
by Craig Weatherby
We haven’t always agreed with world-travelling writer Taras Grescoe, who is best known as the author of Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood.
In fact, we were puzzled by the stance he took in an essay in The New York Times, titled “Sardines with Your Bagel?”, in which he advised against eating wild salmon, in order to protect it.
(To see the problems we perceived in his position, see “Essay Confuses Wild Salmon Issues... and Consumers.”)
But Mr. Grescoe seems to have abandoned his stance, following a trip to Canada’s British Columbian coast to report on the serious problems with industrially farmed salmon.
As he reports, offshore industrial salmon farms in Norway and Scotland drove wild Atlantic salmon to the brink of extinction, while newer ones run by European mega-corporations pose a dire threat to western Canada's wild Pacific salmon.
But Grescoe notes, wisely, that the problem is not aquaculture, per se: “With 45 percent of the seafood in the global diet now coming from farms, aquaculture has become an essential source of nutrition. It's just that there are better ways of doing it than raising a carnivorous species in permeable nets off vulnerable coastlines” (Grescoe T 2009).
The result of his trip was an in-depth report on the disaster looming for wild salmon in Canada, titled “The Trouble with Salmon,” which appeared in the May 2009 issue of Best Life magazine... Rodale's maturer-male version of the major publisher's own Men's Health.
As he wrote in the last paragraph of his excellent article, “At home later that week, I barbecue the chinook [king salmon] Smith and I caught aboard the Blue Eagle 1. The fillet is… firm and well muscled, juicy but not oily, and completely lacking in the gooey fat that makes eating farmed Atlantic fillets such a chore… it bears about as much resemblance to farmed salmon as fine venison does to a cheap package of ground round. It is the taste of my childhood ‘the essence of the Pacific Northwest’ and I don't want it to end.”
We share his concern about the natural glories of “Salmon Nation," which is why we continue to report on the fight to prevent industrial fish farms from killing wild salmon… a fight led by local fishermen, academic marine researchers, and biologist-activists like Alexandra Morton.
Our most recent reports on this David-vs.-Goliath struggle were “Salmon Defenders Win Hopeful Court Case” and “Salmon Migrate by Mail to End Extinction Threat.” To view them all, search our newsletter archive for “morton”.
In his well-researched article, Mr. Grescoe explains how wild salmon sustain the unique coastal eco-system of the Pacific Northwest, why farmed salmon threaten the entire ocean food chain, why wild salmon is much healthier than farmed salmon… and how salmon could actually be farmed sustainably.
We urge you to read “The Trouble with Salmon” …and share it with others using the email link at the bottom of the article pages.
Here are some representative excerpts (Grescoe T 2009):
As to the last point, as Grescoe says, buyers must beware: “In a cross-country sting operation, Consumer Reports found that 56 percent of salmon labeled ‘wild’ in supermarkets was actually farmed” (Grescoe T 2009).
- “Increasing evidence shows that, far from enhancing global food security, salmon farming is hastening the collapse of the world's fisheries, starting with the Pacific Northwest's remaining populations of wild salmon.”
- “Industrial-scale fish farming, promoted as a panacea to world hunger and the salvation of the wild fisheries, is turning out to suffer from the sins besetting the most notorious confined animal feeding operations on land: overcrowding, disease, contamination from pollutants, and overmedication with pesticides and antibiotics.”
- “Norwegian fish farms first wiped out Europe's wild salmon. Now they are destroying the stocks in British Columbia … as well as the livelihoods of local fishermen…”
- “Markets in Vancouver started refusing rockfish caught near the salmon farms because they were covered in strange growths and ugly lesions.”
- “The farmed salmon are fed neurotoxins and are high in inflammatory omega-6s... Levels of vitamin D… are four times lower in farmed salmon than in wild.”
- “Salmon are the vehicle by which the biological riches of the North Pacific are spread to the land… As long-term strategies go, killing off the wild salmon of the Pacific Northwest is about as forward-thinking as deliberately infecting the goose that laid the golden egg...”
- “The choice then seems easy enough: Buy wild Alaskan instead of farmed salmon… the only consistently healthy salmon runs left are those in the cold rivers of Alaska.”
At Vital Choice, we sell only wild-harvested Pacific salmon. And our claim is backed by chain-of-custody audits performed by the respected Marine Stewardship Council (Learn the details at our Sustainability page).
In fact, we’re indirectly responsible for the Consumer Reports investigation mentioned by Grescoe. That report followed and was clearly inspired by a similar expose in The New York Times, undertaken after we alerted Times food writer Marion Burros to the farmed-for-wild salmon fraud we uncovered at the Fulton Fish Market, while touring the famed seafood wholesale site with Dr. Andrew Weil (See “Buyer Beware: Vital Choice discovers "wild" salmon scam” and “Consumer Watchdog Finds 'Wild' Salmon Scam Remains Routine”).
Thanks, Taras Grescoe, for an excellent report from the front lines of the fight to save wild salmon!
To read all our reports on the problems surrounding offshore industrial fish farming, search our newsletter archive.
- Grescoe T. The Trouble with Salmon. Best Life, April 12, 2009. Accessed online at http://www.bestlifeonline.com/cms/publish/health/The-Trouble-with-Salmon.php
- Krkosek M, Ford JS, Morton A, Lele S, Myers RA, Lewis MA. Declining Wild Salmon Populations in Relation to Parasites from Farm Salmon. Science 318 (5857), 1772, 14 December 2007. [DOI: 10.1126/science.1148744]
- Dean C. Lice in Fish Farms Endanger Wild Salmon, Study Says. The New York Times, December 14, 2007. Accessed online December 16, 2007 at http://www.nytimes.com/2007/12/14/science/earth/14salmon.html.
- Seierstad SL, Seljeflot I, Johansen O, Hansen R, Haugen M, Rosenlund G, Froyland L, Arnesen H. Dietary intake of differently fed salmon; the influence on markers of human atherosclerosis. Eur J Clin Invest. 2005 Jan;35(1):52-9.
- Weaver KL, Ivester P, Chilton JA, Wilson MD, Pandey P, Chilton FH. The content of favorable and unfavorable polyunsaturated fatty acids found in commonly eaten fish. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 Jul;108(7):1178-85.