Source: Wild, Farmed
Mercury Risk: Low


Salmon is the single most popular choice among U.S. sushi patrons. Unfortunately, it can also be a dangerous option. As conscientious consumers, this is one issue where we need to make our preferences known.

The last decade has seen a flood of farmed salmon entering the market. These farmed fish pose a threat to our health and to ocean ecosystems in a myriad of ways.

Feed: Salmon need meat and protein to survive. Sadly, feed providers often round up vast numbers of smaller fish, grind them into fish meal, and sell it to fish farmers. Such tactics can lay waste to fish populations. Moreover, it takes anywhere from two to four pounds of feeder fish to raise one pound of salmon. By farming animals that eat so high on the food chain, we’re consuming more fish than we realize.

Waste and Pollution: The waste generated by a salmon farm is usually released directly into the ocean. This can be a problem for sensitive organisms living in nearby areas, especially sponges, corals, and other animals that are unable to move to cleaner waters.

Escape and Crossbreeding: An escape-proof salmon aquaculture system has yet to be implemented on any significant scale. Without such a system, some fish are always going to get away. In some cases these fugitives can crossbreed with wild fish and alter the local gene pool, threatening the next generation’s ability to hunt and spawn.

Disease and parasites: The crowded conditions of farmed salmon increase their chances of contracting diseases or parasites. Unhealthy farmed fish can transmit parasites like sea lice to neighboring wild fish, which threatens the strength of native salmon. Recent research suggests the severe sea lice problem in British Columbia could wipe out certain native populations in less than five years. Also, farmers sometimes use antibiotics or pesticides to combat these problems, and the residual chemicals can be passed on to consumers.

Some salmon farms are better than others, but no farms have yet adequately addressed all these problems to the point of meriting our unconditional support. Luckily, there is a simple way to enjoy salmon at the sushi bar and still vote for a healthier planet: Ask for wild salmon.

Wild salmon from Alaska have aggressive and fairly effective fishery management programs. Alaskan king (chinook), silver (coho), and sockeye (red) salmon all come from large fisheries much more sustainable than their farmed counterparts.

Washington, Oregon, and California also boast salmon fisheries, but stocks are shaky and have been the source of much recent concern.

Wild salmon will probably come at a higher price than the farmed alternative at your local sushi establishment. It’s important to remember, though, that consumer demand has an incredible impact on what options are available to the public. If a chef hears enough patrons demand wild sustainable salmon, he or she may add it to the menu in place of farmed fish.

Another excellent replacement for farmed salmon is farmed arctic char. A red-fleshed relative of the salmon, arctic char are usually raised in low-impact closed-containment farms where they pose no threat to the surrounding environment.

It can be difficult to identify sustainable options when dealing with categories of seafood that present many different variables, such as catch method, country of origin, or species variant. It’s important to support seafood merchants that are willing to take these challenges on themselves and source only sustainable options. By allowing precautionary, third-party science to dictate its seafood selection, — the world’s first fully sustainable online seafood marketplace — offers its customers the ability to purchase responsible seafood with confidence.


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