By Dave Sigworth, publicist of The Maritime Aquarium
The Maritime Aquarium strongly encourages you to be a supporter of sustainable seafoods, and – along those lines – there was an interesting “uptick” recently on Seafood Watch’s rating of Atlantic salmon.
For years and years, salmon has been No. 3 in the U.S. in per capita annual seafood consumption. (Behind shrimp, which is far away No. 1, and canned tuna.) Unfortunately, there aren’t enough wild Atlantic salmon left to sustain this demand, so salmon are being raised in “fish farms.”
Clearly, with Atlantic salmon overfished in the wild but holding steady at No. 3 on the seafood list, salmon farmers are meeting consumers’ demand – and doing so at an affordable market price.
While strictly regulated, fish farms can have issues. Three to 4 pounds of smaller fish must be caught to feed one pound of farmed salmon, which only exacerbates the issue of “overfishing” in the seas. Waste from overcrowded salmon farms can foul the water and spread disease and parasites. And there are concerns of genetically different salmon escaping from their farm pens and mating with wild salmon.
A display about sustainable seafood in The Maritime Aquarium's "Go Fish" exhibit recommends that consumers "Avoid" Atlantic salmon.
The Maritime Aquarium is a partner in Seafood Watch, a program conducted by the Monterey Bay Aquarium that helps consumers and businesses make choices for healthy oceans. By monitoring species populations as well as how fisheries operate, Seafood Watch recommends which seafood products are “Best Choices,” “Good Alternatives” and which you should “Avoid.”
Seafood Watch for years has said we should “Avoid” farm-raised salmon from anywhere in the world. Their “Good Alternatives” and “Best Choices” are various varities of wild salmon from the west coast of the U.S., British Columbia and Alaska.
Recently, however, one company’s farmed-raised Atlantic salmon has been deemed to be a “Good Alternative.” Verlasso, based in Chile, is a joint venture between AquaChile, which raises the salmon, and DuPont, which produces feed whose omega 3 fatty acids come not from wild-caught fish but from a genetically modified yeast that has been approved as Generally Recognized As Safe (GRAS) by the FDA. www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/GRAS/
Seafood Watch says that while there are still environmental concerns, “the current practices of Verlasso result in a ‘Good Alternative’ recommendation.” (For their full comments, go to http://tinyurl.com/739ltdg and click on the Atlantic salmon/Verlasso link.)
We’re not advocating that you buy salmon from Verlasso. (In fact, it’s not even available in Connecticut. And in New York and New Jersey, it’s only available through the online delivery service Fresh Direct.)
It’s just good to see industries and regulators working to try to make salmon available to us in “eco-friendly” ways.
And, if not Atlantic salmon, what seafood should we be eating here in Connecticut, to support sustainable fisheries? You can find Seafood Watch’s pocket guides in The Maritime Aquarium’s cafeteria and in our “Go Fish” exhibit. Or download one here: http://tinyurl.com/87qo52 (They have apps for your Android and iPhone too.)