We’ve been told time and time again that the most sustainable, healthiest seafood choice is wild-caught fish, but times are changing: as the world’s wild fish populations deplete at an ever-growing pace, strides are being made in the world of fish farming, and today, sustainable aquaculture is the way to go.
Don’t believe us? Here are five great reasons to choose (sustainable!) farmed fish instead of wild.
1. We’ve learned from our mistakes.
Our preconceived notions about farmed fish being a less sustainable, less healthy alternative didn’t come from nowhere. Jacqueline Claudia, LoveTheWild’s co-founder and CEO, notes that while aquaculture has been around since ancient China, the first commercial scale aquaculture in the U.S., which was developed in the 1970s, “was pretty ugly by many accounts.”
“It spawned the enduring negative perceptions of aquaculture: overcrowding, reliance on wild fish for feed, disease and antibiotic use, poor quality fish, and environmental devastation,” she says.
Doesn’t sound like a pretty picture, does it? Luckily, sustainable aquaculture today has progressed leaps and bounds.
Overcrowding is one great example: while fish naturally crowd and school together in the great wide ocean – and can even get ill when they are not able to exhibit this natural behavior – early fish farms nonetheless had problems linked to overcrowding, such as low oxygen and excessive waste.
“Today, science has led to deeper understanding of optimal stocking densities of a given system, and most salmon farms operate around a maximum of 15kg/square meter (about a third of historical levels),” explains Claudia. “To put this in perspective, some modern aquaculture like that at Pacifico Striped Bass operates pens that are 98% water and 2% fish.”
Another major change in the aquaculture industry is the way in which farmers approach and treat disease.
“The one thing that a lot of people are working on are new diagnostics that will help to both identify diseases early on as well as to prevent diseases,” says Monica Jain, Founder and Executive Director of Fish 2.0, who notes the presence of a new trend in sustainable aquaculture. “People are creating products that make the fish stock, the farmed fish healthier rather than trying to treat diseases after they start.”
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