Intense global population growth and an increase in the demand for seafood have lead to a need for fish farms. This has sparked a heated debate among environmentalists and nutritionists alike: Is wild caught fish or farmed fish better for you? Which is better for the environment? With all the information out there on both sides of the fence, it can be confusing to know which type of fish to feed your family. However, there is a subcategory of fish farms that is typically left out of the discussion, and it is perhaps the most important: responsibly raised fish.
The term “responsibly raised” is critically important when talking about farmed fish, as it tells you a lot about the conditions in which those fish are bred. Not all fish farms operate alike, but those deemed responsible raise their fish according to stringent rules and regulations. As such, you can rest assured that when you choose to buy these fish, you are purchasing a quality product that wasn’t raised at the expense of the surrounding ecosystem. So, why exactly should we all commit to supporting responsible fisheries?
Protect Wild Fish Populations
Unlike some fisheries, responsible fish farms value their natural surroundings when planning their aquaculture sites. The disaster of Nicaragua’s Lake Apoyo taught us a valuable lesson about maintaining strict boundaries between local and non-native species, when a handful of the lake’s farmed fish escaped and negatively impacted the area’s ecosystem. This was the result of a fish farm operating without responsible practices, and not taking the necessary precautions to ensure a strong division between farmed and local fish populations.
It is because of this respect for local wild populations that farms like Regal Springs’ Aquafinca Farm in Honduras are considered responsible. They ensure that farmed fish are kept separate from native fish with top quality enclosures that float above the lake floor, restraining their fish while still allowing them plenty of room to move freely and naturally. In this way, fish both inside and outside of the farm are happy and healthy, living in harmony.
Know Where Your Fish is (Truly) From
Sometimes, it can feel as though you’re swimming in circles trying to determine where a fish is from. This can be a real deterrent for many shoppers, as they like to know how the fish got from the water to their plate—and how long this process took. However, organizations like the Aquaculture Stewardship Council enforce stringent standards to ensure that the fish farms they certify are of the highest quality. These standards include things like traceability, or transparent indicators that act as a fish’s resume. In this way, people can shop with ease knowing that fish stamped with the ASC label are responsibly farmed, raised on feed that was responsibly sourced and bred in humane conditions free from unnecessary chemicals or antibiotics.
Help Reduce Overfishing
Our fish populations are at serious risk of complete depletion because of many unethical and illegal fishing practices. Overfishing the ocean’s wild populations will have a terrible impact on the world’s island communities who rely heavily on fish for their protein intake. This is where farmed fish comes in.
Responsible farms allow aquaculture experts to grow and closely monitor healthy fish populations at a greater rate, creating a rich source of protein that can address the global food crisis. So, when you choose responsibly farmed fish, you are helping wild fish populations regenerate and refill the oceans, and therefore helping to feed countless communities around the world.
There is no quick fix for our planet’s dwindling fish stocks. However, there are changes we can all make in how we consume fish, which can have a dramatic impact in the long run. Purchasing responsibly raised fish from the supermarket is a great first step, but what about when you order fish at a restaurant? Ask your waiter about the fish on their menu: where does it come from? Is this fish from a non-endangered population? Whether or not you get the detailed answer you want, asking for information gives the impression that consumers want to know more, and that message will make its way up the food chain of your local grocery, restaurant or food truck. We can all do our part to save our oceans, and it all starts with making responsible choices every day.
Find out more about how what we eat can have a massive impact on our planet.
Photo Credits: Regal Springs