Saturday, August 3, 2013

Salmon Confidential

Yesterday I made an early morning run to the supermarket to knock out the grocery list before the day got busy.  While pushing the cart past the seafood section, a heaping tray of wild caught Alaskan sockeye salmon caught my eye and then noticed another tray of pasty yellow farmed salmon from Chile that sat nearby in the same display.

I stood there for a moment comparing the two and how the flesh looked so entirely different in appearance.  The sockeye flesh was bright red, firm, with minimal fat lines.  The farmed salmon looked mushy, fatty, and the "Color Enhanced Through Feed" advisement on the sign left me scratching my head on who would ever buy farmed...especially when they could have wild?

I am not going to tell you that I've always had this conviction about eating wild salmon.  It wasn't until a couple years ago that I started tracking what was going on with salmon aquaculture when I picked up a packet of salmon off the shelf and it said it was from India.  India?  There are salmon in India?  Yep.  They live there in farms.

There are a lot of really scary things going on with penned salmon and time is revealing that many of these fish are sick when they are processed for market, as well as devastating wild salmon stocks as they pass through historical migratory routes, which now hold aquaculture pens.  Penned fish are passing off disease and infections to wild fish and wiping out whole year classes of salmon before they have a chance to spawn.

Take some time this weekend and watch Salmon Confidential.  This hour long film covers how the British Columbia government is closing it's eyes, and even covering up, what is happening with their wild salmon management.  It will quickly catch you up with a lot of the grim realities of farmed salmon and why eating wild is so important.

What can you do?  For starters there are a couple of things that really aren't too tough but can make a difference.

First, do some research online.  There are a multitude of videos, websites, and studies available online that are devoted to the status of salmon aquaculture and it's devastating effects to wild stocks.

Second, read the small print on labels, store signs, and restaurant menus.  There are some tricky word usage with farmed salmon that can make it appear as if it's wild instead.  Do your homework.  When eating out, ask questions to your server but also do the math that if it's the middle of winter and the menu says "Fresh Salmon" then it's undoubtedly farmed.

Lastly, make a commitment to not buying farmed salmon for yourself or your family.  If there wasn't a demand then there wouldn't be farms.  Change eating habits and only buy salmon when it's in season or think ahead and vacuum seal and freeze to eat later when fresh wild salmon can not be bought in stores.

Oh yeah...and NEVER eat wild Pacific Coast steelhead.  From time to time they show up in markets and on menus, by very shady underground means, and is not responsible at all.  Steelhead populations are threatened in almost all the waters they swim and they should not be eaten.

Salmon aren't the only menu item to keep an eye on, as many of the seafood items we find on menus can be farmed (you don't even want to know where your shrimp likely comes from) or are harvested even though their numbers may not be at sustainable levels.

Check out the Seafood Watch website, download or carry along the latest the guide, and support seafood restaurants and companies who are doing business the right way.

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