Farmed salmon, Atlantic salmon, sake (sushi)
Once a luxury food reserved for special occasions like Christmas and New Year’s Eve, salmon has gradually become available year-round in supermarkets, in large quantities and at reasonable prices (for the budget of the average Western family). But we should not be deceived by this availability: Salmon is anything but a sustainable fish.
…with Wild Atlantic Salmon
The stocks of wild Atlantic salmon have been reduced to dangerously low levels. The reasons are many: overfishing, pollution, environmental changes, aquaculture, habitat deterioration and disturbances of migration routes. Wild Atlantic salmon stocks in North America, Europe and the Baltic have been over-exploited since the 19th century and in many regions the species has disappeared completely.
…with Farmed Salmon
Even though wild Atlantic salmon stocks have been drastically depleted, farming represents a poor alternative, given the environmental havoc it causes.
Responding to market demand, in the last ten years aquaculture has increased by over 400%. The majority of salmon are raised in open pens and cages along the coast, where the fish are targeted by predators such as seals and sea birds, who attempt to get through the nets. As a result, many salmon escape from their enclosures. These escapees threaten the wild species, increasing competition for food and for places to spawn and fertilize eggs.
Fish farms pump uneaten food, a massive amount of excrement and often pesticides and antibiotics directly into the ocean, polluting the water. Farmed salmon suffer from parasites and diseases that can pass to the wild fish, further threatening their populations.
Additionally, the huge quantity of wild fish needed to feed farmed salmon (it takes between 2.5 and 5 kilos of wild fish to produce 1 kilo of farmed salmon) means that aquaculture consumes more fish than it produces, further increasing pressure on wild species.
Though often recommended as one of the best animal sources of omega-3 fatty acids, farmed salmon should not be eaten frequently. Farmed salmon flesh contains significant amounts of pollutants. The disinfectant and antibiotic residues left in farming operations can affect consumers' health and increase their resistance to antibiotics.
For more information on health issues, click here.
Advice and Alternatives
Don’t eat wild Atlantic salmon and farmed salmon.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California recommends wild Alaskan salmon as an alternative.
Consult online guides for other sustainable alternatives in your region.