The nutritional and health benefits of wild, local seafood

I really love the taste of seafood and am happy to get my fair share of Omega 3 oils when eating fish and other types of seafood. Apparently, I am not alone. According to Eartheasy, worldwide demand for seafood has increased by nearly 50 times since the 1950’s and continues to grow.

Does this explain the increase in farm raised seafood, a 1 billion dollar+ industry called acquaculture, the fastest growing sector of animal food production? Or the creation of genetically engineered salmon, the world’s first GE animal authorized for human consumption?

My research into this topic was spawned last week when I saw a startling segment on the Today Show about seafood containing toxic chemicals. Apparently, when tested for drugs like chloramphenicol, nitrofurans and malachite green, chemicals so toxic to humans that they’re banned in all food, seafood imports test positive as much as 40 and 50 percent of the time. The worst offenders are shrimp, catfish, crabmeat and tilapia imported to the U.S. from China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia. The vast majority of salmon and shrimp consumed in the U.S., for example, are sourced from fish farms in Asia. (Source: Eartheasy).

Though U.S. grocers are required by Federal Law to identify a seafood’s country of origin, restaurants fall under state legislation. In many cases, states do not require restaurants to tell patrons where seafood comes from. And according to Chris MacNeil, the Dining Guy, chefs and restaurateurs have a tough time serving locally grown, wild fish when taking availability, cost, taste and demand into consideration.

For the first time, last year, more fish consumed in the world was farmed rather than caught in the wild. Sadly, like large-scale agriculture on land, large-scale aquaculture sets the stage for potential problems, like environmental damage and antibiotic use. This helps explain much of the fish farming industry has been criticized for its ecological unfriendly practices.

What is equally as disturbing is that farm raised seafood and GE salmon aren’t nearly as nutritious as their wild counterparts. According to FDA studies, farmed fish are fattier (cultivated catfish have nearly five times as much fat as wild, for example) and provide less usable Omega-3 fats, not to mention the antibiotics they might contain.

And according to NBC, this isn’t just a health issue. American fishermen who play by the rules say they’re losing their jobs because they can’t compete with importers who cut corners and sell their fish much at a much lower cost in the U.S.

It seems like the win-win is to support our local fish farmers and eat more wild seafood. By paying more now, we may be improving our health — and economy– for later.

What’s your opinion?

Melinda Hinson