Guest Post: Salmon – Buy Wild Caught or Don’t Buy It At All

Guest Post: Salmon – Buy Wild Caught or Don’t Buy It At All post image

The other day I watched an incredibly moving documentary entitled Salmon Confidential, (linked below) which reveals some of the shocking controversies surrounding the practice of salmon farming in British Columbia, Canada.

The film documents biologist Alexandra Morton’s efforts to gather evidence about the devastating impact salmon farming is having on the health of local wild populations of salmon. It also exposes the Canadian government’s attempts to cover up and prevent such evidence from being made public.

Farmed Salmon Breeding Grounds for Pathogenic Parasites and Viruses

Morton and others maintain that aquatic feedlots where farmed salmon are raised in captivity are breeding grounds for concentrated amounts of pathogenic parasites and viruses which are infecting wild salmon, causing massive ‘pre-spawn’ die off. This means wild salmon are – dying before they have the opportunity to reproduce – from infectious diseases being proliferated by salmon farms, which is contributing to the decimation of the wild salmon population.

Morton and other scientists have positively tested numerous dead wild salmon for specific viruses they suspect these fish have contracted from farmed salmon.

However the Canadian government, which has a vested financial interest in the export of farmed fish, insists that farmed fish do not pose a threat to the health of wild salmon. Government officials continue to deny the existence of virulent viruses in the farmed salmon population and prohibit independent lab testing of farmed fish for disease causing microorganisms.

Watching this movie really validated and reinforced the decision I made many years ago to stop buying farmed fish. It also made me want to share this information with others who may not be aware of the many reasons to be mindful about choosing only wild caught fish for our personal consumption.

Wild Salmon – Robust and Nourishing

Ever since we were young, most all of us have become familiar with the captivating natural phenomenon of wild salmon as they make their epic journey swimming upstream from the sea through freshwater rivers and tributaries, to eventually spawn in the very same location where they themselves were spawned.

Imagery of wild salmon is iconic, and it’s inspiring to witness these magnificent, powerful and athletic creatures strain against strong river currents and thrust themselves up into the air out of rushing rapids and waterfalls in their unrelenting zeal to migrate homeward, to the place of their birth.

Through eons of time wild salmon have been a key species in the environments where they flourish because they serve as a nutrient dense food source for a variety of other animals, and because their decomposing bodies provide essential, life giving elements to surrounding vegetation.

Besides providing vital sustenance for myriad other species, wild salmon have also served for many thousands of years as a versatile, delicious and deeply nourishing food for human beings.

Factory Farming Fish

Even though edible wild salmon have long been an abundant resource, the practice of aquaculture, or the concentrated farming of fish in confined pens, has expanded exponentially in recent decades, with production increasing ten-fold between 1982 and 2007.

From detrimental environmental effects, to questionable health implications for wild fish populations, to concerns about the quality of the food they produce, there’s no lack of controversy surrounding fish farms.

Here are some of the main reasons to avoid purchasing farmed fish:

  • Salmon farmed for food live in incredibly unnatural confined conditions, enduring extreme levels of stress, which makes them particularly vulnerable to infection from a variety of pathogenic bacteria, viruses and parasites.
  • Farmed salmon are forced to live their entire lives in enclosures designed to contain large numbers of animals in a finite area. Because the fish are in such close confinement, their bodies constantly scrape against each other as well as the sides of their pens, causing lesions to their scales and fins which are prone to infection.
  • There is evidence that the concentrated amounts of pathogenic organisms generated in farmed fish feedlots and released into surrounding waters are having a disastrous effect on the health of the wild salmon population.
  • Farmed fish are routinely given antibiotics to counteract the prevalence of disease causing pathogens to which they are so vulnerable.
  • Many farmed fish are fed compound “fish feeds” which may contain feather meal, wheat byproducts, corn and soybean meal. And as we know, most corn and soy these days is genetically modified and sprayed with toxic industrial agricultural petrochemicals.
  • Most adult species of salmon are carnivorous fish whose natural diet does not include plant based, land grown proteins such as those derived from wheat, corn or soy.
  • Tests of farmed salmon show they contains elevated levels of toxins such as dioxins, chlorinated pesticides and PCBs .
  • Fish farms release tremendous amounts of wastes (feces) in concentrated areas which can have a potentially detrimental impact on surrounding marine environments.

If it’s Not Labeled “Wild” it’s Probably Farmed

Farmed fish is astonishingly ubiquitous in our food system. However because it’s not labeled as such, many people are unaware of what they’re purchasing.

If the salmon or other fish or seafood you see for sale at the market does not say “wild” on the label, chances are very good that it came from a fish farm.

Even much of the fish sold in restaurants is farmed. If you’re out at a restaurant and see ‘Fresh Atlantic Salmon’ on the menu, if it doesn’t specifically say it’s wild caught, it’s virtually certain to be farmed.

If you have any doubts about whether the fish you’re about to purchase at a store or order at a restaurant is wild or farmed, be sure to ask your retailer or food server for clarification.

Genetically Engineered Frankenfish

Biotech companies such as AquaBounty Technologies have been experimenting with the creation of genetically engineered salmon, which have been designed to grow unnaturally fast and large. All such fish, when and if they are made legal for sale, will also be farmed.

Because labeling genetically modified organisms is not yet required by US law, the potential existence of such mutant, farmed salmon is yet another very important reason to purchase nothing but wild caught salmon.

Vote With Your Money

The more people who understand the reasons why to avoid the purchase of farmed fish, the less revenue the companies that conduct the business of fish farming will earn.

When purchasing fish and seafood for yourself and your family to eat, be sure to choose wisely, choose consciously and choose wild!

Where to buy high quality wild fish

This post was written by Linda Zurich

An avid independent researcher, writer, speaker, foodie, herbalist, gardener, lifelong lover of nature and perpetual student, Linda Zurich is the author of Detoxification: 70 Ways to Cleanse, Clear and Purify Your Body, Space and Life.

Dedicated to empowering people with the understanding that our bodies are imbued with a profound healing intelligence, Linda is devoted to broadening as well as sharing her ever evolving knowledge of the most natural and efficacious methods through which we may activate that innate healing wisdom.

Her writings on a wide variety of subject matter as well as information about her upcoming speaking engagements can be found at her website, Holistic Paths to Healing and Wellness, at

This post is shared at: Tasty Traditions, Thank Your Body Thursday, Simple Lives Thursday, Small Footprint Friday

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Leave a Comment

  • Judy @Savoring Today April 25, 2013, 8:17 am

    We stopped eating farmed salmon or any farmed fish years ago. I even ask in restaurants before I order. Thanks for this article, I’ll share on Facebook too. 🙂

  • Kerstin April 25, 2013, 1:18 pm

    My understanding is that there is no wild Atlantic salmon – so any Atlantic salmon you get is actually farmed…which means the only wild salmon left would be the Alaskan? Feel free to correct me if I am wrong – and yes, I too have been spending more and eating less of the Wild Caught Alaskan Salmon…

    • Christal March 7, 2014, 4:02 pm

      Commercially, you are correct. There are only a very few places in the US (6 rivers in northern Maine) that are open for Salmon fishing due to their populations having been thoroughly re-established… needless to say locals all jumped for joy at being able to catch wild Atlantic salmon once again. That said, there is a cap on what might be caught preventing any sort of commercial enterprise in these rivers and of course, they feed out to bays which have farmed salmon pens, making me question whether parasites and disease may have been spread in their passing, though with the vigor and speed salmon race home and up stream, that might not really be a concern.

      But if you happen to be in northern Maine, the Machias and East Machias rivers are where some friends go for their own catch.

  • Susan Weinberg April 26, 2013, 6:58 am

    Hubby and I have been eating wild caught Alaskan salmon. But if if is from the far North Atlantic say, from Norway, not Canada (my hubby likes lox and bagels, it being raw salmon) caught wild, I would think it would be OK. But beware of Icelandic salmon in the stores. They’re definitely farmed.

  • Debbie April 26, 2013, 8:37 pm

    Jill, do you have a recommended source to purchase Wild Salmon, either on line or a grocery store?

  • Jill April 28, 2013, 12:50 pm

    Vital Choice Seafood — fantastic quality of frozen fish and the canned salmon is amazing:

  • Suzanne May 16, 2013, 4:51 pm

    Hi Jill,
    Thanks for the informative post on avoiding farmed salmon. You might enjoy a post series I did a few weeks ago about how to find affordable and ethically raised seafood.
    My research was far from being as thorough as yours and so I will definitely post this on facebook for my readers. Through my research, I did speak with a fish monger at Whole Foods who told me that the farmed salmon sold there is actually raised in a humane and sustainable way. They basically partner with specific fisheries in Scotland where the fish are farmed using more humane and ethical practices (no GMO or cloning) and only given beta carotene for color, no antibiotics or other yuckies. His argument was that this fish was actually a better choice since it was farmed in a controlled environment whereas the wild salmon available is becoming contaminated, as you mention, by the farmed varieties. Do you have any thoughts on this?
    Thanks for the info.

    • Jill May 16, 2013, 6:25 pm

      Hi Suzanne,
      Actually the post was written by Linda Zurich so I will forward your question to her. It is a good point that the sustainable farmed fish are in a more controlled environment. As time goes by, they are trying to improve those conditions. If I had to choose, I would still choose wild salmon as it has the better fat content than farmed fish, but the Scottish salmon is a better choice than farmed salmon from Costco.

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  • J. W. Snyder January 26, 2015, 4:17 am

    Instead of spending a fortune for a hunk of Salmon at a store, go to your local sporting good store and buy a fishing pole and a license and catch your own.

    Overall the quality of meat you will get catching your own will be much better plus it’s a great hobby. Fishing gear is relatively inexpensive and well worth the investment. For example I live in Washington and it’s around $50 for a fishing license. You can buy a combo pole and reel like a Shakspere Contender combo for another $50 and your half way there.

    Next start to research where people are actually catching Salmon. When you find out where some of the hot spots are do a little recon first, go there and find out what people are using and then go purchase the same gear for yourself.

    Tackle will run another $20 to $30 if you shop smart. So now you’ve spent a little over a hundred dollars and enough have gear to you several seasons.

    Now the hard part, catching the fish! In my case I went from catching a few fish every year to well over a hundred. For example in 2013 I caught around 300lbs of high quality Salmon. Chinook and Coho. With Salmon running around $12 a pound that a total of $3600 worth of meat. How’s that for a return on investment?