• Green Tip: How to Tell If Your Wild Salmon Is Actually Wild

    Posted by   |  November 13, 2015
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    We come to expect high standards from our food. Regardless of our dietary habits, many like to eat products that carry limited environmental impact, and favor those manufactured without cruelty. But a disturbing new report from Oceana shows that 37 percent of salmon in New York is mislabeled, most often claiming to be wild, when it was actually farm raised. How can you make sure you’re making the right meal choices for the environment?

    The Problem With Farms

    Salmon farming entails gathering large groups of salmon into densely packed areas for breeding in accordance with consumer demand. While fishermen in the United States catch enough wild salmon to placate 80 percent of American demand, only 30 percent of it makes its way into the public’s hands. Two-thirds of our demand, then, comes from farms.

    Salmon farms aren’t just cruel – they’re dangerous. In order to keep so many fish alive in such tight settings, salmon farmers resort to using all manner of antibiotics and pesticides, thus sending waves of these poisons into neighboring water supplies. In addition, salmon farms lead to outbreaks of sea lice. While sea lice pose no threat in normal settings, severe outbreaks caused by these farming techniques can extend beyond the holding pens and into larger bodies of water, thus disrupting the local life.

    As far as sustainability goes, salmon farms have a rather inefficient model. In order to feed the fish, most farmers use other fish, which could instead go towards satisfying consumer demand. In recent years, the amount of fish used to feed these salmon has decreased. At one point in time, however, the salmon ate five pounds for every pound produced for the market.

    16333875678_3478a4a461_zBorn To Be Wild

    Eating wild salmon can help to mitigate the negative effects of salmon farms. By relying on humane, environmentally-conscious sources, consumers can shift demand away from improper practices, and demand their money’s worth for a sustainable model of food. But what if you can’t tell where your salmon came from? While the White House has made efforts to curb fraud in seafood trade, there are still ways that you can be an informed consumer and avoid the mislabeling trap. According to Oceana, you can:

    • Question your sellers – ask them where and how the fish was caught.
    • Check the price – often times, unexpected, low prices on fish may indicate unsavory sources.
    • Support traceable seafood – look for products that include additional information, such as the type of salmon. This may indicate proper labeling.

    If you can’t get around eating farmed salmon, look for inland salmon farms. Recent experiments have shown that salmon farmers can attenuate some of the negative effects of their practices by isolating their farms from larger water sources. Unfortunately, this practice is relative young, and has not spread significantly through the United States.

    The next time you order salmon, make sure to stop and think where it came from. Making the right choices can help keep our water healthy.

    By Brendan Szendro

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