Americans consume 4.5 billion pounds of seafood every year. Studies show that eating more fish causes a 25% reduction in diabetes and overall reduction in death rates. Fish consumption can reduce cancer risk and provide us with heart healthy Omega-3 oils.
Cold-water fish, such as salmon and tuna have the healthiest omega-3fats. Omega-3s can lower your blood pressure, lower cholesterol and triglycerides, prevent blood clots and prevent heart attacks. Eating fish can also help lower your risk of stroke and reduce your risk of Alzheimer’s disease, enrich eyesight, alleviate asthma, reduce colorectal and prostate cancers and help build better bones and lessen osteoporosis.
So we know that eating fish is healthy but it is important to know that fish and shellfish are also a leading source of food-borne illness in the U.S. The more fish eaten from polluted waters and eaten raw, such as oysters (which can cause viral infections) increases your chances of getting sick.
Some fish should be totally avoided because they have high levels of Mercury and PCBs. These include: king mackerel, shark, swordfish, tilefish and certain types of tuna. Consumption of some freshwater fishes like carp, catfish, bass and trout should be limited because they are prime candidates for contamination from Mercury, PCBs and Chlordane.
Always remove the skin and bones when preparing fish and you will eliminate vast amounts of most contaminants. Also, most states list waters and fish species on their official fishing websites which have consumption advisories. These recommendations should be strictly followed.
Recent findings have shown that about 1/3 of fish sold in markets and restaurants are improperly labeled. Buy fish only from reputable suppliers and look for brands that test their fish for Mercury and PCB content.
It is best to always eat wild-caught fish. Farm-raised fish have brought about much concern because of lack of regulations; fish being genetically enhanced and being fed antibiotics and growth hormones. These fish do not consume their natural diets. Instead they are fed pellets containing vegetable oils and other feed ingredients, especially salmon which are given pellets containing dye to give their meat a nice orange color. Wild salmon get their orange from eating krill and other shellfish. Most farm-raised fish we consume comes from pesticide ridden waters in the southern U.S. or from Asia, most likely China. It is best to avoid any food products from China.
More than three-quarters of the surface water flowing through China’s urban areas is considered unsuitable for drinking or fishing, according to a 2009 study by the Ministry of the Environment. The study found that about 42% of the country’s rivers were unsuitable for drinking and fishing. About 4.05 million hectares of farmland in China, or 7.4% of the nation’s irrigated lands, are irrigated with polluted water, most of it in northern China. Now in 2015, their waterways have certainly gotten worse.
Many packages which say “Pacific Salmon” actually come from fish farms in China and Indonesia where there are no regulations on what the fish are fed. The Montreal Gazette reported that the Chinese feed the fish by suspending chicken wire crates over the fish ponds. The fish then feed on the chicken feces.
Even fish caught by American fishing ships may be processed in China. That is a problem with the highly filthy conditions which are present there. There are no food or safety inspectors. (No on-site USDA inspectors in those plants.) It is always best to read all labels on packaging and if the origin of the fish or the place of processing is unknown avoid purchasing.
Wild salmon, not farm raised is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids, which helps boost the immune system. The goods fats in salmon reduce inflammation, keeping blood flowing and lower triglycerides. But, with the rising popularity of salmon over the past few years more fish farms have popped up to keep up with demand. Fish being touted as organic have excited many people to buy and eat this so-called healthy form of fish.
But wait a minute, are these fish really organic? First, claims of “organic” on packages of salmon or other fish carry far less weight than such claims on land-based foods and should be treated with suspicion. Salmon labeled organic may or may not be better than conventional farmed salmon, and in almost all cases is unlikely to have been raised in a truly organic manner. The producers of so-called organic salmon know that the USDA organic standard does not apply to fish, so they’ve been using generic “organic” labels, as opposed to the official USDA organic label.
The UK Observer reported that there are high levels of cancer-causing dioxins and PCBs in organically raised Scottish salmon because the feed used on those farms are heavily contaminated due to the fact that it’s made of meal fish caught in the polluted North Sea.
Farm-raised, whether organic or not, does not have the same full flavor as wild-caught salmon, which typically is from Alaska or the Pacific Coast.
Many people eat shrimp which most likely are farm-raised and come from Asia. There are many problems with this; including shrimp raised in contaminated waters, questionable farming practices, destruction of mangrove coastal zones to build the ponds needed for farming and devastation to ecological systems.
Shrimp farming, attempts to duplicate the cycle of life for shrimp by using manipulated lights, temperature, salinity, hormone cycles and nutrient supplies to speed up the process of growing shrimp.
There are a variety of ways to raise shrimp in ponds. Some ponds are fed by natural tidal flow and others use pumps and gravity feed lines, or canals, to make a water flow. Large natural flow type ponds produce about five shrimp per each square meter of pond. Feeding is done by lacing the ponds with fertilizer and manure to promote the growth of algae on which the shrimp will feed. The more intensive ponds use fish feed pellets made from plant and fish meals with binders to stabilize the feed while under water.
With shrimp farming much waste is created in the form of uneaten feed, feces, ammonia, phosphorus and carbon dioxide. This excessive waste floats to the bottom of the ponds stimulating phytoplankton and consuming large amounts of needed oxygen. In traditional less intensive systems, these wastes are flushed out to sea, or into a nearby river. This can cause fish kills due to oxygen deprivation. The old fashioned way was to flush ponds once a day. The main chemicals put in ponds are fertilizer to stimulate the growth of plankton, on which the shrimp can feed, and agricultural limestone and burnt lime for adjusting the acidity of the water and underlying soil. In Asia, the shrimp farmers also use porous minerals such as, zeolites to remove ammonia and calcium hypochlorite to kill pathogens and pests.
The problem with all these additives is that they can overwhelm the ability of coastal zones to assimilate and convert these waste products. Too much effluent being discharged directly into the coastal zone will see the local ecosystems overwhelmed. This has backfired in the past and the incoming water supply has then been contaminated for the shrimp ponds. Viral diseases are now on the rampage in countries where concentrated shrimp aquaculture and many farms have degraded the local coastal zone water supplies.
Pathogens can travel from continent to continent and country to country in shipments of infected hatchery produced shrimp. Diseases of shrimp can also be spread through uncooked selling methods and frozen shrimp. There is also danger in that some farmers are using antibiotics and this is causing new bacteria to develop against which there is no resistance. This can upset local ecologies in many ways.
Eliminating the use of antibiotics and pesticides would go a long way in persuading some people into buying farm-raised fish. But it is best to stay with wild-caught which is processed in North America. To learn more about sustainable and wild-caught seafood, visit the Marine Stewardship Council and the World Wildlife Fund.