The world’s wild fish stocks are depleting at an alarming rate. The UN food and agricultural organization (FAO) has estimated that 70% of ocean fish populations are fully used, overused or in crisis, with IRIN predicting that if this rate of overfishing the oceans continues, then there will be no fish left by 2050. This harrowing prediction paints a very grim picture, not only for ocean ecologies, but also for the many coastal and island communities that rely on fish for protein and macronutrients.
But it’s not all doom and gloom, and this is owed largely to the growth of fish farming. In fact, nearly half of the world’s supply of seafood is currently farmed, with a report by Worldwatch Institute suggesting that this trend may be one of the most hopeful solutions to the world’s increasingly troubled food situation. The issue, though, is that fish farms have been haunted by a few persistent and damning myths that have caused people to become wary of them. We’re here to set the record straight, and to show how the evidence truly supports the growth of sustainable seafood consumption.
Myth #1: Farmed Fish is Bad for the Environment
Eco-friendly Americans want to consume seafood from sources they know aren’t contributing to our already polluted waterways. Some say that farmed fish is bad for the environment because all fish are kept in small cages that are close to the muddy bottom of the lakes and rivers where they are caught. But these circumstances aren’t always a reality, and it depends on the type of fish farm we are talking about. Sustainable fisheries leave plenty of space in cages so that fish can swim freely and develop lean muscle without overcrowding. They also ensure that fish are kept in floating cages so that they are only exposed to clean, clear water.
Additionally, some argue that increasing the aquaculture industry will have as much of a negative impact on the environment as cattle farming. Not true, says the World Resources Institute. Fish and seafood do not emit anywhere near the same amount of greenhouse gases that cows do, so producing an extra 80 million tons of farmed fish per year will be much easier on the planet than producing the same amount of additional beef. Also consider the fact that many sustainable fisheries operate zero-waste policies, and it’s clear that, if done smartly and responsibly, farming fish could have only a minimal impact on the environment.
Myth #2: Farmed Fish Aren’t Nutritious for Consumers
What fish to consume—and more importantly what fish not to consume—can be confusing to find accurate information about if you want to improve your diet. One day it’s recommended that Americans consume two or more servings of fish per week, then the next we learn that some fish contain high levels of mercury that could prove toxic. Luckily, certain farmed fish, like sustainably farmed Tilapia, bypass all of those issues by being naturally low in mercury, rich in minerals like calcium and potassium and having heart-healthy omega-3s. The truth is that while certain fish can vary in nutritional content, it’s often depdendent on whether they are farmed or wild. For example, farmed salmon have fewer omega-3s but more folate than wild salmon—each type of fish offers their own important health benefits.
Myth #3: Eating farmed Fish is as Bad as Eating Bacon
Ok, let’s address the elephant in the room: according to some outlets, eating farmed fish like Tilapia is as bad for your health as eating bacon. This sensationalized headline was debunked many years ago, but unfortunately continues to persist. When you look at the data, Tilapia is by far the healthier option, because while bacon contains heart-disease causing saturated fat, Tilapia is low in fat and high in protein. Additionally, Tilapia has been shown to help with weight loss and weight maintenance and is a crucial part of a low cholesterol diet.
Myth #4: Farmed Fish Pollute Water and Consume Mud and Waste
Some people are afraid that farmed fish is dirty and that they consume mud, waste or other detritus found on the the floor of the rivers and lakes they swim in. This is simply not true. Unless the fish are starved, they will not consume anything other than a plant based diet. Additionally, if fish are kept in spacious, floating cages and water quality is monitored, there is no need for concern about farmed fish being overcrowded or that their waste is polluting the bodies of water they are farmed in.
The next time someone tells you that farmed fish is as bad as pork, or that they feed on mud, you can offer them these facts and inform them that, if done responsibly, fish farms can actually help sustainably feed the world.
Learn the truth behind other fishy falsities with Common Myths About Frozen Fish.
Photo Credits: Regal Springs