sustainable fish farmer in Fish Meat

In seafood we trust- is sustainable seafood up to your standards?

posted by Veronique Koch on 04 September 2013

Here at Fish Navy Films, we often talk about how important it is for the consumer to be informed so that they can make the best choices when it comes to sustainable seafood. But as Ted pointed out, some of the responsibility lies with businesses offering the right products to their customers.

That’s why I like to shop at Whole Foods for my seafood, because at least there you know that the fish mongers know where their seafood is from and they have an alliance with MSC and The Blue Ocean Institute to ensure they sell seafood from more sustainable sources.

But this does not mean that you should go shopping blindly. Yes, you can trust a company like Whole Foods to offer you better choices than perhaps some other chains, but does this mean that they offer seafood that is up to your standards?

For example, the other day I went grocery shopping there, with a cranky toddler in tow. I knew my time was limited in the store before my sweet angel got… Challenging. So I waltzed through the seafood section to scan for something on sale and a neon yellow sticker proclaiming a good deal on salmon caught my eye.

Now the old version of myself, the childless one with tons of time on her hands, would have examined the label, identified the country of origin and the source and perhaps even have taken out my phone to look up whether it was sustainably farmed or caught in my Seafood Watch app.

The new me? I’m almost embarrassed to say, I grabbed the fish and thought “I’m sure it’s fine!” and went straight to pay for it. I’m sure you can see where I’m going with this story. When I got home, once baby was happily occupied and I was able to cook, I caught a glimpse of the label. A sense of dread swept over me when I saw the word “Farmed”.

whole foods salmon

Farmed salmon has a bad reputation for pollution to local water sources and high rates of escapes of farmed fish into the wild. This being Whole Foods, the farm is likely one of the better ones. When I asked the fish monger about the farm, located in Iceland, they said they are farmed in open ocean pens. Hmm, Seafood Watch says clearly to avoid this method of salmon farming.   I learned more from the Whole Foods website:

“Our salmon are raised in carefully monitored, low-density pens and tanks without antibiotics, pesticides or added growth hormones. Detailed protocols prevent escape of the salmon into the wild, and harmful and lethal methods are never used on predator birds and marine mammals.”

So this farmed salmon is better than most, you could say. But the fact is that farming fish higher up on the food chain like salmon, fish that require a carnivorous diet, can lead to problems with high feed conversion rates and fish being taken out of the ocean to create that feed. This was not a choice that my former self would have made.

Was it delicious? Absolutely. Would I buy it again? No. A nice alternative to farmed salmon is wild salmon from Alaska or even some Arctic char that come with the same pink hue.

I wish I could say that shopping for sustainable seafood was getting easier, but it still requires you to be sharp and know your stuff. Next time, I’ll bring an extra toy to occupy my sweet angel and take the time to read the fine print.


Consumer Choice from Fish Navy Films on Vimeo.


Image sources: A fish farmer from the film Fish Meat (top) and Whole Foods salmon.

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