Fish Farms: Essential Fish Advice

Health Care professionals tell us to eat lots of cold water fish, especially salmon, because we need Omega-3, an Essential Fatty Acid, for optimal brain function and cardio health.

This is a paradox because most of the fish are so "intoxicated" with poisons, humans are unable to consume them!

Let's look at some of the things man has done to the creatures that live in the oceans and lakes in North America:

In 1985 tests were conducted on the ocean fish in southern California. Greater than one part per million of DDT were found in the edible flesh. For many years a local DDT manufacturer had dumped its industrial waste full of DDT into the sewer. A few million pounds were deposited on the ocean bed around the sewage outfall. In addition, ocean barges took more DDT out to sea and dumped it. By the time of the tests (1985) it was evident that the DDT levels were decreasing but even 1 p.p.m. of a human carcinogen is too much. Long ago the FDA set a maximum of 5 p.p.m., but did not consider the carcinogenic risk of DDT.*1

In the late 1980's a study, part of an American six-month investigation of the fish industry, sampled popular fish from super markets, grocery stores and fish shops. This is what was discovered: 40% of the fish were beginning to spoil when purchased; 90% of swordfish were mercury contaminated; 50% of whitefish and 40% of salmon were contaminated by PCB's (polychlorinated biphenyls); the clams were laced with arsenic and lead; and 50% of the clams were contaminated with animal and human feces (1 in 5 had counts of fecal coliform exceeding 100 per gram).*2

Let's hope the situation has improved, but in the meantime be careful what you purchase. It does not give one's appetite a lift to think of eating salmon or shellfish from the waters around Vancouver or any of the other possible runoffs from civilization. In the 1970's, governments offered grants and subsidies to fish farming. Even though the U.N. warned that foreign or exotic species are harmful to local ecosystems, 70% of farmed salmon in BC are Atlantic stock. These particular salmon escape by the 1000's and displace wild stocks by competing for breeding space and food. Potentially they could breed and weaken the genetic makeup of the wild salmon. Over 1 million Atlantic salmon have already escaped. Storms, faulty operations, predators and accidents create the high numbers.*3

For parasite infestations (sea lice) farmed fish take a bath in pesticides or consume the pesticides in their feed. The pesticides then travel on to the natural marine environment.*4

The David Suzuki Foundation does not oppose aquaculture in general, but it does note the threats of: exotic fish escaping into BC wild waters; open net cages that allow toxic feed pellets, fish proteins, antibiotics and pesticides to escape. Open net cages should probably be replaced with closed containment systems, but assurance that the farm industry will convert to closed containment has yet to be achieved.*5

In 1995 the B.C. government placed a moratorium on new marine salmon farms. John van Dongen, Minister of Agriculture Food & Fisheries, said that a scientific revue (1997) by the Environmental Assessment Office concluded that, as practiced, the risks of salmon aquaculture were low, but still made 49 recommendations to reduce the risks of salmon aquaculture. The provincial government promised improved policies for fish health, fish escapes, sitings and relocations, fish waste and for research and development. These were supposed to be finished by April 30, 2002 when the 5 year ban will be lifted and new farm applications will be accepted.*6

In response, Anne McMullin, Executive Director of the BC Salmon Farmers Association, said that the Association intends to add 10 new farms a year that means in 10 years the industry will double and will generate 2.4 billion dollars in economic activity every year.*7

That's a lot of fish! Who will buy it?

Otto Langer is Director of Marine Conservation and a registered professional biologist who worked for the Federal Department of Fisheries and Oceans for 30 years. He finds that performance based regulations monitored by the industry itself is worrisome and that the decision to lift the moratorium could lead to the decline of the health of marine life on the BC coast.*8

On CKNW Rafe Mair quoted from the Auditor General's Salmon Farm Report (2000) that the "Department [of Fisheries and Oceans] is not fully meeting its legislative obligations under the fisheries act."*9

Farmed fish are so densely packed that 10,000 to 50,000 are kept in one cage at a time. Disease and parasites are therefore big problems so antibiotics and pesticides are also used. Farmed salmon receive more antibiotics by weight than any other livestock leading to antibiotic resistant diseases. *10

The most commonly used antibiotic is oxytetracycline - 6.4 metric tones were used on B.C. salmon farms in 1998. Seven other antibiotics are also used. *15

The drug-laden wastes from surplus food and feces are free to pollute the marine environment. Research has been completed from Dr. Michael Easton, David Suzuki Foundation, and Dr. Miriam Jacobs of the University of Surrey in conjunction with the US Environmental Protection Agency and suggests that potentially dangerous levels of toxic chemicals are contained in farm salmon feed. Dr. Easton's study compared toxic levels in farmed salmon, wild salmon and commercial salmon feed. Samples showed farmed salmon include ten times more Polychlorinated Bihphenyls (PCB's) and higher levels of organochlorine pesticides and polyprominated diphenyl ethers than wild salmon.*11

One year ago, Allan Rock, Federal Health Minister, was urged to assess risks of eating farmed salmon and publish safe levels for consumption. In Britain the maximum is one portion a week. Minister Rock did not issue such a report.*12

In January 2002, Fisheries Minister, John van Dongen, recommended that salmon farming be expanded and then virtually announced that it already has because more escapes had occurred. Most of those fish will never be seen again.*13

Jim Fulton of the David Suzuki Foundation, with the Musqueam Band and Sierra Legal Defense brought about an injunction on February 8, 2002 to prevent the infectious waste from a highly contagious salmon disease being dumped untreated into the largest salmon producing river in the world - the Fraser River in BC. Several officials of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans made it clear that the DFO would not stop boats from dumping diseased fish.*14

The fish waste smolts were then taken to Parksville, BC. There was observed spillage. The fish had IHN virus (Infectious Hematopoietic Necrosis virus) and were composted at a facility in Courtenay. Seven farms are infected with IHN; six are in Campbell River and one on the North Coast. Emergency steps are needed to control and dispose of the fish waste.*15

The differences between farmed salmon and wild salmon is astounding. Farmed salmon are fed fish-meal, fish oil, and fillers. It takes 3 - 5 kg to produce 1 kg of farmed salmon. Wild salmon is one of the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids and farmed salmon is higher in saturated fats. The saturated fat in the feed produces farmed salmon that have 70% more fat than wild Atlantic salmon and 200% more fat than wild sockeye, pink or chum salmon. Overall, farmed salmon has lower levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.*16

Wild salmon are rarely available at a restaurant or market. This is alarming because consumers interested in obtaining their omega-3 oils in a nice fishy treat do not want to eat saturated fats, antibiotics and pesticides in substitution. It is becoming more difficult to find wild salmon to purchase and one must be careful to pick it out from its farmed counterpart. For instance, generally mushy and bland tasting, farmed salmon are fed dyes to color their gray flesh pink, whereas, wild salmon is naturally pink to red in color and firm and tasty. Sockeye, chum and pink salmon are not farmed. Canned salmon is wild salmon because the soft flesh of farmed salmon makes them difficult to can. The best canned fish are salmon and white tuna (albacore).*17


When purchasing fish, buy from a reputable fish counter and look for the least polluted fish. These typically are flounder and sole and fish from New Zealand and Australia. Also, ask the merchant if the salmon is wild or farmed. Generally salmon labeled "fresh" in supermarkets or on a restaurant's fixed menu is farmed.*18

Avoid fish that are heavily contaminated such as: swordfish, lake whitefish, oysters, mussels, clams and yellow fin and big-eye tunas. Don't buy fish from Great Lakes, L.A. and San Francisco basins, New Jersey coast, Puget Sound and Boston Harbor. Alaska fish are threatened by radioactive waste from Soviet testing sites.*19

When you pick out your fish at markets, remember that fresh fish does not smell fishy - it doesn't stink! The flesh should be firm and the eye glossy. If you wish to find wild salmon in restaurants, ask for it! Many restaurants in Vancouver, BC feature wild salmon when available. Maybe if we don't buy the inferior fish, they will "fly" back home to the Atlantic!

Providing you with the latest information on
Nutritional Prevention


1. "Spontaneous Healing" by Andrew Weil, M.D. © 1995 Weil
The Ballantine Publishing Group, ed. May 1996 pg 163

2. "The New Nutrition" by Dr. Michael Colgan © 1995 Colgan
Apple Publishing, 1995 pg 20 - 21

3. "Why You Shouldn't Eat Farmed Salmon", by David Suzuki Foundation © January 2002, pamphlet

4., David Suzuki News bulletin:
February 13, 2002

5., David Suzuki News bulletin:
February 13, 2002

6. Environment News Service: "Fish Farming Moratorium Lifted in British Columbia",

7. Environment News Service: "Fish Farming Moratorium Lifted in British Columbia",

8. Environment News Service: "Fish Farming Moratorium Lifted in British Columbia",

9. Auditor General's Salmon Farm Report (2000),

10. "Why You Shouldn't Eat Farmed Salmon", by David Suzuki Foundation © January 2002, pamphlet

11., David Suzuki News bulletin: January 8, 2001

12., David Suzuki News bulletin: January 8, 2001

13., David Suzuki News bulletin: January 8, 2001

14., David Suzuki News bulletin: February 10, 2002

15., David Suzuki News bulletin: February 13, 2002

16. "Why You Shouldn't Eat Farmed Salmon", by David Suzuki Foundation © January 2002, pamphlet

17. "Why You Shouldn't Eat Farmed Salmon", by David Suzuki Foundation © January 2002, pamphlet

18. "Spontaneous Healing" by Andrew Weil, M.D. © 1995 Weil, The Ballantine Publishing Group, ed. May 1996 pg 163

19. "The New Nutrition" by Dr. Michael Colgan © 1995 Colgan, Apple Publishing, 1995 pg 20 - 21

Healthy Fats | Why do foods cause stress | Trans Fats vs Healthy Fats | Butter Stresses Not Thy Body | Essential Fats Lost their Balance | What are Essential Fats? | Balancing the Omega Fats | Essential Fish Advice | Fish oil 'makes you happier' | Eggsactly! | Do all you can | Bibliography

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