Wild-Caught or Farm-Raised Fish? Tips for Choosing

Monday, November 18, 2013
You don't have to feel like a fish out of water, wondering what seafood choice is best.
Bluefin tuna swimming in ocean

When most people think of farms they typically think of vegetables or fruit, not fish. But Fish farming has increased by 400 percent since 1980. This had led to concerns about the health of the environment and the nutritional quality of the fish we eat.

Farm-raised fish are raised in floating net-like cages in bays along coasts. However, not all fish farms are the same. Problems arise when farms are not run sustainably. Questionable farming practices involve the use of antibiotics, growth hormones, chemicals and over-crowded cages. These practices may harm wild fish populations if farmed fish escape.

Fish farming can raise environmental concerns and might also produce fish with a different nutrient profiles than wild-caught animals. But there are also concerns over contaminant levels found in wild fish habitats, with certain farmed fish recommended over wild-caught due to the potential toxins they might carry. This can leave eaters feeling like fish out of water, wondering what choices are best!

To help navigate the seafood counter at the market, consider these tips:

  • When fresh-caught wild fish is not available, look for fish that was frozen at sea.
  • Choose fish that are caught and farmed responsibly, like Alaskan wild salmon, U.S. farmed tilapia, Pacific halibut, U.S. farmed rainbow trout and Canadian or U.S. pole/troll-caught albacore.
  • Refer to montereybayaquarium.org for more information on choosing healthy and sustainable fish and to download a Seafood Watch Pocket Guide.

  — By Andrea Lopriore, 2012-2013 Bastyr dietetic intern, and Debra Boutin, MS, RD, chair and dietetic internship director, Department of Nutrition and Exercise Science at Bastyr University.

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