Salmon is probably the single most recommended fish to eat by healthcare practitioners everywhere, and it is also one of the more popular type of fish we commonly see on the menus of some of our favorite restaurants. Sure, salmon can taste incredibly delicious whether it’s baked, grilled, smoked, poached or broiled, and it is also very simple to prepare. But is it as healthy as we believe it to be?
Well, that depends entirely on the fish’s freshness–or better yet, where it comes from.
According to the documentary Filet Oh! Fish by Nicolas Daniel, the fish industry is much more grim than originally perceived. The film takes a close look at the fish industry, specifically fish farms and factories across the world. There are a number of problems that present-day fisheries are faced with, from overfishing to chemical pollution. As mentioned by the film’s producers, “through intensive farming and global pollution, the flesh of the fish we eat has turned into a deadly chemical cocktail”. While aquaculture may promote itself as a sustainable solution to overfishing, the truth is fish farms actually cause more problems than they solve. So what’s the issue with fish farms? That’s exactly what film focuses on answering, and unfortunately the answer is not a good one.
The documentary first set out to explore fish farms in the Norwegian fjords with respected environmental activist Kurt Oddekalv, and found that below salmon farms, there was a layer of waste about 15 meters high filled with bacteria, drugs and pesticides. Unfortunately, since these farms are located in open waters, there is no way to contain the pollution.
A single salmon farm can hold about 2 million salmon in a small space, which can cause crowded conditions and disease, which is known to spread quickly among stressed salmon. Per Oddekalv, sea lice, pancreas disease and infectious salmon anemia virus have spread throughout Norway.
To avoid the spread of disease among the salmon, various dangerous pesticides are applied in an effort to ward off disease-causing pests. Although fish are widely known as a health food, Oddekalv claims that today’s farmed salmon are one of the most toxic foods in the world.
Toxicology researcher Jerome Ruzzin confirmed Oddekalv’s claim regarding the poor and dangerous status of salmon farms. Ruzzin conducted testing on various different food groups sold in Norway for toxins, and confirmed that farmed salmon contained the largest amounts of toxins.
The test results showed that farmed salmon is five times more toxic than the other food products tested. In animal feeding studies, mice who were fed farmed salmon grew to be obese, with thick layers of fat around their internal organs, and also developed diabetes. Wild-caught salmon commonly contain about 5 to 7 percent fat, whereas the farmed variety can contain anywhere from 14.5 to 34 percent.
The film also shows how pesticides used to treat the fish affect the fish’s DNA and causes genetic mutations. According to Oddekalv, about 50 percent of farmed cod are deformed, and the female cod that escape from the fish farms are known to mate with wild cod, therefore continuing the spread of the genetic mutations and deformities.
While most would imagine that pesticides and antibiotics are the culprits behind these high levels of toxins, in fact, it is the dry pellet feed. Pollutants found in the fish feed are found to have dioxins, PCBs, and various different drugs and chemicals.
The problem can be traced back to the manufacturing process of the actual pellets. The fatty fish is first cooked, resulting in two distinct products: protein meal and oil. The oil has high levels of dioxins and PCBs, while the protein powder adds to the high amounts of toxicity.
Eating fish has now turned into a gamble, as you don’t know exactly what you’re eating. The harsh reality of the fish farms can turn away any fish consumer. In today’s industrial age, the common phrase heard is “nothing goes to waste”. And that is valid, as the film also shows how fish waste has also become a highly sought-after commodity used in processed foods. At less than 15 cents per kilo, fish heads and tails and what unused meat remains after filleting is a huge profit generator.
Fish skins are recycled for use within the cosmetics industry. The leftover fish waste is washed and ground into pulp, then used in prepared meals and pet food. Why haven’t you noticed, you may be asking? Well, since manufacturers aren’t required to tell you what’s in their products, fish pulp simply goes unnoticed.
Wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon and smaller fish with short life cycles, such as sardines and anchovies, are recommended over farmed salmon. Just be sure the fish is not from the Baltic Sea, as it is known to be very contaminated.