In the market, most seafood is labeled either farmed (aquaculture) or wild (fished). Apparently many types of fish are raised by using techniques from both methods. For example, Alaskan salmon may be labeled wild even though they originate in fish hatcheries. Are you as disturbed about this as I am?
We need better labeling of fish
Scientists from the UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS) have published an article in the journal Marine Policy which asserts the need to add a designation beyond farmed or fished — hybrid.
The hybrid designation would indicate that those fish have been raised using methods from both aquaculture (hatcheries or farms) and from fishing techniques. The importance of this is emphasized by the researchers because it would increase our knowledge of how fish and shellfish are really raised throughout the world.
I want to know if it is truly wild for health reasons
Until the 1970’s polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), and other synthetic chemicals, were added to paint, plastics, and other products and have found their way into fish. A landmark study in 2004 found that PCB concentrations were almost eight-times higher in farmed fish because of farm-feed contamination.
Although a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that the health benefits of eating the omega-3-rich fish outweighs the potential dangers of PCBs, I’m not convinced.
Additionally, the fats in farmed fish are higher in inflammatory omega 6 fatty acids than wild fish.
We need an accurate record of how seafood is raised
According to Mary Turnipseed, second author and a former postdoctoral fellow at NCEAS,
Seafood production is a critical part of global food security, but the way we study and talk about it often obscures how to achieve the thing we care the most about: increasing the supply of sustainably produced seafood to feed a rapidly growing human population. We need to start collecting more accurate data on how seafood is really produced in today’s world, and a first step will be through replacing the old farmed-fished dichotomy with a farmed-fished-hybrid classification scheme.
Aquaculture: farms and hatcheries
In aquaculture, many techniques are used — fishing may be involved in production. For example, Bluefin tuna farms obtain their stock by fishing for juveniles and raising them in cages until they are large enough. These farms also fish for feed, and use 10 to 20 kilograms of feed fish for every kilogram of tuna they produce.
I didn’t know tuna could be farmed — they are so big and out in the ocean! I buy tuna with the idea that it is always wild. I guess not.
According to Dane Klinger, first author and a Ph.D. student at Stanford University,
Farming fish and shellfish is generally a different way to produce seafood than fishing. While fisheries traditionally interact with their target population only at the time of capture, aquaculture, in its ‘purest’ state, controls the entire lifecycle of the organism, from egg to harvest. However, many common types of seafood are produced using techniques from both fisheries and aquaculture.
The researchers examine several popular seafood products that are harvested using a combination of techniques generally ascribed to either fisheries or aquaculture.
The authors reviewed several cases of fisheries (wild) that are augmented by aquaculture (farmed). A percentage of the Alaskan salmon population is raised in hatcheries and then moved to fisheries (and labeled wild). There are hatcheries (farms) that are stocking scallops in New Zealand waters, and hatcheries that are stocking eastern oysters in the Chesapeake Bay.
American lobsters are fed by bait placed in traps until they reach legal catch size. In fact, the amount of bait provided to lobsters in one season is often greater than the volume of lobster catch in the same season, by a factor of two.
Are these fish wild or are they farmed?
That is the question asked by these researchers. United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is the primary source of information about the global seafood industry.
However, the reporting of data from both developing and developed countries to the FAO is incomplete. The researchers feel that adding the hybrid category would help in the global understanding of how the fish are raised.
The traditional categories of seafood production — fisheries (wild) and aquaculture (farmed), do not clearly account for the growth potential and environmental impacts of the seafood industry.
The authors conclude by stating the urgency of adding the hybrid category:
Without these data, transformations in the market for a critical food and livelihood source for billions of people could occur, with global analysts and policymakers being the last to know.
Here’s what is urgent
We need to reduce environmental impacts. In order to do so, we need a more accurate way of tracking and categorizing seafood. The farms and hatcheries that rely on wild fish for feed and wild juveniles to stock the farm, actually put additional pressure on the ocean. If large quantities of bait are used in wild fisheries that is even more pressure and we may not have a good picture of the amounts of fish the ocean can produce.
This is important for sustainability in the seafood industry. I would also like to be sure of where the fish I eat is coming from and whether it is farmed or wild…
What about you? What do you think about this new category of seafood? Leave a comment and let me know!