At present, fish is one of the healthiest food sources available to us on this planet. You can find the best sources of omega-3 fatty acids in fatty fish. These fatty acids support brain and body functions and were linked to the prevention of many diseases. Fish is the next best source of vitamin D for people living in areas that receive limited sunlight.
Yet, the place where the fish comes from is another story. Pollution and heavy metals can be found in many bodies of water where fish are commercially farmed and harvested. Aside from being regularly exposed to these dangers, fish were also given pesticides and antibiotics, thus making them a health risk rather than a health benefit.
One way for you to ensure that you get safe, toxin-free fish and reduce your exposure to these dangers is by staying away from a farm-raised fish.
Sadly, the choice between a farm-raised fish and wild-caught fish isn’t black and white. At best, it’s choosing the lesser of two evils, which makes non-farmed fish varieties just slightly better than the farmed counterparts. While farm-raised tuna, salmon, and swordfish are affected by run-off from land-based sources of pollution, given most farms are found on ocean shorelines, its wild-caught variants have a higher risk of mercury contamination. This means that those farmed-fish highly exposed to agricultural run-offs such as herbicides, pesticides, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and dioxins which are all environmental pollutants that are highly carcinogenic.
Moreover, most farmed-fish are regularly pumped full of antibiotics to prevent pests and diseases. How the farms are operated is also a vital factor why fish have more toxins as compared to their wild-caught relatives. For example, in India, almost all farms are managed by people with little to no knowledge about the proper upkeep of the pond and the needs of the fish. In the end, all of these only lead to questionable practices in farm management, which include the use of toxic chemicals and poor nutrition (many farms in India use human waste or diseased fish in pellets).
At this point in time, it shouldn’t be shocking that some studies revealed that farmed fish carry more toxins than wild-caught. This trend is seen in the most commonly farmed types which include salmon, catfish, tilapia, cod, and sea bass.
By becoming well-informed about the health and environmental impacts of certain practices in fishing, and doing something right about it, we can put pressure on fish and seafood providers to change and stop their practices for the better.
Some ways that you can start making healthy and smart choices include the following:
Know Your Fish
It’s important to learn which fish are healthy and which ones are not and should be avoided.
Expand Your Diet
Be adventurous by trying unfamiliar fish or seafood on the menu as it can actually lessen your exposure to contaminants found in particular species.
Eat Low On The Food Chain
Small fish contain less contaminant buildup than larger predatory fish. These small fishes include fresh tilapia, arctic char, trout, and anchovies. They can reproduce quicker than big fish, which makes them recover faster from the side effects of overfishing.
Carl Safina of an advocacy group known as Blue Ocean Institute explained that:
“This is the best general rule of thumb: the larger the fish grow to be, the more likely they are to be both depleted and carrying a higher load of chemicals.”
That is why, if you are a fan of a predator fish, try to limit your consumption to once every two weeks.