Farmed vs Wild
Aquaculture has gotten a bad rap over the past few years. Concerns about the environmental impact of farming operations; the various forms of feeds, dyes, and anti-biotics that different farms use; and the carbon-efficiency of aqualculture have taken center stage in the farmed vs. wild debate. Andwhile we agree that there farms that the consumer should avoid, we also feel that responsible aquaculture is an important part of achieving the sustainability balance. The following is a quick run through of some of the important questions you should consider when buying farmed or wild seafood. We hope this will empower you to make informed decisions, and if you still have questions you can call, e-mail or stop by for a chat. That’s what we’re here for!
What is "Farmed" Seafood?: Aquaculture or fish farming refers to raising fish commercially in tanks or enclosures. When done properly, the goals of fish farming are to provide an inexpensive, consistent source of protein, while simultaneously reducing pressure on wild fish stocks. When evaluating fish farming operations, consider these questions:
How is it farmed? Ridgeways, Raceways, Inland Ponds and Closed Tanks are preferable to open ocean net pens because they help control pollution through re-circulating systems, and also help to dramatically lower fish escapes. (Fish escapes refer to the phenomenon of farmed fish escaping into the wild habitat and breeding with similar wild fish stock which can have adverse effect on wild populations.) Some fish simply can’t be raised in closed systems so it’s important that open ocean net pens be situated in areas where there is good tidal flow to adequately flush out waste from the immediate surroundings.
What are the inputs? Consider what type of feed the fish are given and whether or not the farms are using additives such as anti-biotics or hormones.
What is the feed ratio?? The aquaculture industry refers to feed ratio as the amount of dry feed it takes to produce one pound of wet fish. Since many fish farms subsist on wild fish feed, ratios above 1:1 don’t make much sense, since you’re essentially producing a net protein loss.
What is the stock density? Stock density refers to the amount of fish per pen or pond. Industry best practices call for low densities in fish farming operations. Not only is this more humane, it also helps limit the spread of pollution and disease and reduces the need for anit-biotics.
What does the farm do to limit escapes? Escapes of farmed fish into the wild can have negative effects on the diversity of wild fish stocks, possibly hindering their competitive advantages developed over centuries of living in the wild. It’s important that aquaculture operations have sound practices for mitigating escapes.
What is "organic" farmed fish? Currently there is no FDA Organic Certification for aquaculture products. As such, you should be inquisitive of what "Organic" really means when you see seafood products labeled that way. In general, the term "Organic" refers to the absence of hormones and anti-biotics in the farming process.Wild
What is wild seafood?: Wild seafood is the last truly organic protein in the world. It is born and bred in a completely natural environment without direct feeding, medicinal, or scientific input from mankind. While eating wild seafood appeals to our animal instincts, it is a finite resource that we need to manage effectively to ensure the oceans bounty can be enjoyed by generations to come. When evaluating the sustainability of wild fisheries, consider these questions:
What is the current stock status and management plan? While some fish stocks are abundant and show no signs of decline, others may not be at healthy levels. It’s important that individual wild fish stocks have effective and appropriate regional management plans such as catch quotas and fishing ground closures to ensure fish stocks are at healthy and abundant levels or are on the path to these levels.
What are the fishing methods being used? Certain fishing methods can impact other marine species resulting in by-catch. Hook fishing is generally the least harmful as it targets one fish, while nets and dredges can have major environmental impacts by disturbing the sea floor and indiscriminately harvesting all species in their path.
How quickly does a species mature? Certain fish like Wahoo grow and mature rapidly allowing them to maintain and build population stocks. Other fish like Chilean Sea Bass take longer to mature and produce eggs making it more difficult for their populations to withstand concentrated fishing.
What are the overall ecosystem impacts? The wide varieties of species in ecosystems act as checks and balances preventing species from rising to unsustainable dominance. Fishing pressure on certain species or competitors may have adverse effects on the overall health of marine ecosystems.