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Barbequing beef or salmon is a popular summer activity in Canada and Canadians of all walks love a good bash. Some prefer beef, and some fish, mostly salmon. This magnificent fish is rich in taste, satisfies the appetite, and according to scientific reports, healthy.
There is, however, a serious controversy towards farmed versus wild salmon. Some researchers claim farmed salmon to contain high amounts of biphenyls (polychlorinated biphenyl), others say the amounts are well below set standards of Canadian and American health departments.
The ordinary citizen is confused reading contradictory reports. It is important to determine the background of the researcher and his/her affiliation. An environmentalist will tend to determine that wild salmon tastes better and is healthier, whereas scientists believing in aquaculture will claim farmed fish to taste as good as wild. It is true that farmed salmon are fed small fish and vegetable matter.
South American small fish contains less PCB’s than those caught elsewhere, and feds to Norwegian farmed fish receive. North American farmed receives South American small fish. The location and structure of the farm is important. Some are in bays with slow water, movement, other in fjords with rapid movement. The latter is a better environment for fish. Cages lowered in water protect fish better but cramped quarters are unhealthy ad cause diseases that must be fought by using antibiotics. Contaminants accumulate in the fat of salmon. Removing the fatty parts and skin before cooking reduces harmful PCB content to a large extent.
Canned salmon is wild, unless the package states “Atlantic salmon”. Regardless of harmful content, eating omega-3-fatty acids in fish or any other food offers more health benefits than damage. These acids protect against heart attacks and strokes.
Mercury levels of large fish such as shark, swordfish, king mackerel, and tuna are a concern. Authorities recommend limits of one meal of any of those per week, and for pregnant women, one per month.
Remember fish is an important source of protein, niacin, vitamin B12, iron, selenium, zinc and magnesium. Even fatty fish, gram for gram contain less fat than beef.
The anti-farmed –salmon lobby is led by two allied organizations, one of which is the union of salmon fishermen out to protect their turf. What is less known is that large corporation boats catch 70 percent of the wild salmon. Wild salmon are as prone to disease as are those raised in farms, but in confined conditions, diseases spread fast and cause havoc.
While some studies find that wilds salmon contain high levels of PCB, others state the reverse. In either case the levels are well below North American regulators stated to be acceptable.
Wild salmon are caught indiscriminately by huge mechanized boats, which use inordinate amount of fossil fuels. There are five species of salmon (King or Chinook, sockeye, Atlantic, Chum, and Red Spring Salmon). Landlocked salmon is rare and spends all its life in freshwater. Commercial fishermen catch all regardless of their number, and need of protection.
Certain species need protection; the squabble about quotas revolves around species. Obviously, commercial fishermen catching indiscriminately are in favour of increasing overall quotas. Salmon are sein-caught and dumped into a hold to die of asphyxiation (sein fishery); drowned slowly underwater in a gill net, which prevents their normal oxygen uptake (gill net fishery), or caught in the mouth on a heavily weighted hook, dragged on board, and beaten to death (troll fishery).
The commercial salmon fishery gets huge subsidies from the government since fishermen need to catch less than $ 3,000.00 worth of fish to quality for UI benefits.
Sport salmon fishing is much more locative for governments and the environment than most people imagine, in addition to protecting the number of fish.
Farmed salmon offers less depth of taste to the gourmet. The flavour comes from the quality and composition of feed. Remember that it takes two kilograms of small fish to create one kilogram of salmon. You can easily calculate which types of salon is more environmentally beneficial.
These days, scientists and researchers can manipulate, and many do, to arrive at predetermined conclusions. This is lamentable, but unfortunately, occurring.
In the end, the enlightened consumer must decide what is best for him/her and for the environment. One thing is for sure – presently 25 percent of all fish consumed comes from the aquaculture industry. This number will increase sharply in the future since engineers designed and produced sonars that locate even small schools of fish. Powerful factory boats pursue even small fish schools mercilessly and relentlessly.
Humans have managed to over fish oceans and lakes close to extinction. Imagine Japanese and Bulgarian fishing boats taking fish off the coast of Newfoundland not to speak of Portuguese and Spanish. The income must be lucrative enough for them, to travel half way around the world to catch fish!
Article contributed by Hrayr Berberoglu, a Professor Emeritus of Hospitality and Tourism Management specializing in Food and Beverage. Books by H. Berberoglu
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