Salmon is good for us. Like other oily fish, salmon is packed full of Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and vitamin B6. It also is a good source of phosphorous and niacin. The bad news is that the majority of these health benefits come from wild salmon, and unfortunately for American consumers, fish sold as wild salmon is very often anything but wild.
A Huge Demand for Salmon
In recent years, salmon has overtaken tuna fish to become the most popular fish on the menu in the United States. In theory this shouldn’t be a problem since we have a plentiful supply of wild salmon thanks to hard-working Alaskan fishermen, but the majority of the high-quality salmon caught in Alaska is shipped overseas to feed a foreign market. As a result, U.S suppliers are being forced to import lower quality salmon to satisfy the demand from consumers at home.
This would be OK if imported salmon was labelled as such, but what often happens is that suppliers label it as ‘wild Alaskan salmon’ in order to justify charging a higher price.
The Problem with Aquaculture
Many species of fish and shellfish are farmed in order to meet consumer demand for fresh seafood. In the case of mussels, oysters and the like, artificial farming is not a problem and the resultant product is of high quality. Under the right circumstances, it is also possible to farm high quality salmon, but more often than not, farmed salmon are pumped full of artificial dyes and drugs to ensure the fish looks like its wild cousin – and the unwary consumer is none the wiser.
Farmed salmon are fed an artificial diet that doesn’t contain krill, an important part of a wild salmon’s diet since it gives them their distinctive pink coloring. To combat this, farmed salmon are chemically dyed so they look authentic. Salmon also eat a lot, so huge quantities of wild fish are extracted from the ocean to feed them. The other problem with farmed fish is that they are pumped full of antibiotics to ensure they stay healthy.
Fish fraud is a huge problem. The problem is that it is difficult for consumers to spot the difference between a wild fish and a farmed fish. To the untrained eye, one salmon looks much the same as another, although you may find that a chemically dyed salmon loses its color when cooked.
Oceana, the not-for-profit ocean protection group, conducted a study of fish counterfeiting, which looked specifically at salmon. They discovered that 20% of all fish tested in stores was a fake. It might not sound a lot, but that is one in five fish, and if you have paid a premium for a wild Alaskan salmon, you are being seriously ripped off.
The next time you order wild Alaskan salmon from a restaurant menu, ask a few questions about where the salmon originated from, and if it looks a bit pale, you are probably eating a fake fish.Read More