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The Wildly Straight Facts about Farming Salmon

In the Fire

Delicious flavor and numerous health benefits make salmon one of the most popular fish on the market for cooking, but eating it raises a number of concerns.

Salmon: the Merits

Salmon is low in calories and saturated fat and high in protein, zinc, and vitamins B and D. Know to be one of the best known sources of Omega-3 fatty acids, salmon has the following health benefits:

  • Decreases heart disease and cholesterol
  • Reduces the effects of arthritis and other inflammatory problems
  • Helps to maintain a healthy circulatory system
  • Helps to effective treat depression
  • Reduces some cancer risks

Cooking with Salmon: Wild vs Farmed Dichotomy

Wild salmon is one of the most nutritious foods you can eat, but it's becoming increasingly difficult to purchase because of population decline. Farm raised salmon is available in endless quantities, but does not offer the same health benefits as wild salmon and, in fact, presents a number of potential risks to humans and the environment

Fall of the Wild Salmon

While wild salmon were once abundant throughout the waters of the Pacific Northwest, this is no longer the case. Habitat destruction, caused mostly by humans and parasites from salmon farms, are the main reasons for this population decline. Rigid state policies in Alaska have stabilized their wild salmon population and as a result ten times more salmon come from there than from California, Oregon, and Washington combined.

Murky Waters

Salmon farming stirs up controversy and questions for many reasons, primarily because of the harm it has been shown to inflict on humans, sea life, and the environment. Salmon farming takes place when thousands of fish are enclosed in open net-cages in the ocean. By design, these net-cages allow water to flow freely through them, but unfortunately they also allow toxins, fish waste, and parasites to flow freely out of them, which can have a devastating effect on neighboring sea life.

A few more facts about farmed salmon:

  • It is much lower in omega-3 fatty acids than wild salmon
  • It contains up to 10 times the amount of cancer causing PCB's than wild salmon
  • Antibiotics, pesticides, and fungicides used to control pervasive pathogens impact humans and the environment
  • Artificial dyes are used to turn the salmon flesh pink
  • Parasites, namely sea lice, exit farms and wipe out large numbers of young, wild salmon, which greatly reduces overall salmon populations
  • Large concentrations of waste settles on the ocean floor beneath the farms, which results in massive environmental damage and destruction of plant life

Fishing for Answers

Despite the rash of negative information put forth, all hope is not lost for those who like cooking salmon. A viable solution to the ill effects of salmon farming does exist, and if put into action, could immediately eradicate most of the these concerns. By raising salmon in land-based enclosed tanks, the majority of the effects that salmon farms have on sea life and the environment could be eliminated. Other fish such as tilapia and trout are currently raised this way. Norway and Canada are championing the switch to these types of enclosures but it is not a reality quite yet.

Saving the Wild Salmon: What You Can Do

Ask questions before you purchase salmon at restaurants and in the markets if your cooking it at home and make a notable effort to purchase only wild salmon. This could impact salmon farmers enough to convince them to re-evaluate their practices.

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