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Farmers Almanac
The 2014 Farmers Almanac
Farmers' Almanac

Why It Matters Where The Fish On Your Plate Went To School

Why It Matters Where The Fish On Your Plate Went To School

Whether you love it or leave it, fish and other seafood are vital to a healthy, well-balanced diet. Fish is the richest food source of omega-3 essential fatty acids. It is also rich in vitamins A and D, selenium, magnesium, phosphorous, and protein. Fish is a heart-healthy food, its nutrients work to normalize heart rhythm, blood pressure, heart rate, and blood vessel function. Fish is also a brain booster. Its combination of nutrients promotes normal brain development, and assists in the function and proper transmission of electrical nerve impulses to and from the brain. Eating fish once or twice a week has been reported to possibly reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s, stroke, depression, and other chronic conditions.

Still not convinced to eat fish? Maybe you’re hesitant to eat fish for reasons other than flavor or food preferences. Disasters like the Gulf of Mexico oil spill and radioactive materials released into the environment after the Fukushima earthquake from the nuclear plant nearby raise genuine concern for the health of our oceans and natural food sources. With growing concerns of mercury, pesticides, and other contaminants in fish and its habitats, we’ll take a look at the different sources for raising and acquiring fish, and which fish species are healthy to eat and which ones are most likely to contain toxins.

Aquaculture
Over 50% of fish consumed globally are farm raised. Commonly referred to as fish farming, fish and shrimp are typically raised in contained ponds or tanks. The advantage is that farmed fish grow at much faster rates, and thus typically contain low levels of mercury. Fish farm standards vary. Farmed fish are fed fish meal, which may also contain feces and GMO products. Fish raised in crowded conditions are more prone to disease, and are often fed antibiotics. China and other Asian countries have been cited for not only feeding raw sewage to farmed fish, but raising and processing fish in nasty conditions, and holding or transporting the fish in contaminated ice. The good news, select grocery stores such as Whole Foods Market, have developed high standards of raising and feeding the fish they sell and hold their fish suppliers to this standard, furnishing consumers with non-GMO; hormone-, preservative-, and antibiotic-free; quality fish and seafood. Check your grocer’s website for their seafood policy and standards. When possible, buy local. Buying from local producers affords you the opportunity to visit the farm or at least ask how the fish were raised, what they were fed, and if antibiotics were used

Wild Caught Fish
Wild caught fish, thriving uncontained, in their natural habitat, are generally considered to be a healthy, more nutritious fish than aquaculture produced. Wild-caught Alaskan salmon and Atlantic mackerel offer a healthy boost of omega-3 and have been reported to be low in contaminants, thus being among the healthiest fish to consume. Before consuming fish caught in local lakes and rivers, instead of the deep sea, it is wise to check local advisories about its safety. If no advisory is available, the Harvard School of Public Health advises that you limit your intake to 6 ounces or less, per week of fish caught from local waters, and do not consume any other fish during that week.

Aquaponics to the Rescue
As the effects of environmental hazards escalate, we can’t help but wonder if healthy, uncontaminated fish from natural sources will remain readily available. Fortunately, there is a superior way of controlling the water quality and environment fish are raised in which produces naturally clean and nutritious fish. Meet Aquaponics! Aquaponics is a sustainable agricultural science which combines methods of aquaculture (fish farming) with hydroponics (growing plants without soil). This highly efficient, natural food production system works in a complete, balanced cycle yielding quality produce (lettuce, basil, etc.) and healthy fish. Tilapia is one the most commonly raised fish species in aquaponics, at present. The fish in contained tanks supply natural fertilizer for the plants floating in rafts on the surface of the recirculating water system. The plants, in turn, provide clean freshwater to the fish. This innovative combination of raising produce and fish conserves water; efficiently utilizes space, without compromising the health of the fish it produces; and involves no pesticides, antibiotics, or chemicals.

Aquaponics is gaining popularity with hobby farm enthusiasts and those in the sustainable food movement. Aquaponic systems and plans ranging from compact, home systems to large commercial greenhouses are available in abundance on the Internet. To learn more about DIY aquaponics, visit www.friendlyaquaponics.com. Friendly Aquaponics has a newsletter, educational materials, system plans, and conducts training sessions for those interested in aquaponics throughout the United States.

If you’re not interested in raising fish, but want to purchase aquaponic fish for dinner tonight, it’s not widely available. Randy Campbell, an aquaponics producer of 8 years in Elora, Tennessee states, “Fish is not the primary focus in aquaponics, but it is a necessity. Fish is the fuel for the vehicle.” So, it is more likely for you to find Aquaponic raised lettuce or other produce in your local market than fish. Campbell also said, “aquaponic fish cost twice the amount to produce than imported farmed fish. So, it is not likely that you will find aquaponic-raised fish available in your local seafood markets.” Campbell also told us that state regulations determine whether producers can sell aquaponic fish at local farmers’ markets. For the most part, aquaponic fish are sold whole (live) to consumers direct from the producer. Aquaponic fish are also sold directly to local, discerning restaurants. If you want to know if aquaponic fish are available for purchase in your area, call your local county extension office or do a search online.

For more information on which fish should you avoid and which are safe to consume, plus a tasty recipe, read rest of this story in the 2015 edition of the Farmers’ Almanac! (page 178)

5 comments

1 Jeanie { 09.01.14 at 4:55 pm }

Other considerations in choosing fish should be the danger to the environment and the sustainability of the species. By-catch can be very damaging to the environment as well as bottom-trawling (for shrimp, etc.) which destroys ocean bottoms. Some species are so over-fished they are on the brink of extinction (cod bluefin tune and others). There are good mobile apps and websites available to keep you up to date on the over-fished species: Seafood Watch by the Monterey Bay Aquarium is one resource for both.

2 Susan { 08.27.14 at 9:05 pm }

I appreciate this article since knowing which to choose between farm raised and wild caught fish can be so confusing. The aquaponics aspect is very interesting as well. Thank you for this well researched and informative article.

I’m sorry that B-Basil’s concerns are unfortunately valid, but since we can’t reverse the devastation overnight and we still need to eat, it’s good to have the information provided here. Perhaps aquaponics will become more prevalent and start to make an impact. It will be one of many needed changes to reverse the tide of decades of abuse to our planet. Another important component to the needed change is information – like you’ve provided in your article. Thank you.

3 Deborah Tukua { 08.27.14 at 8:17 pm }

B-Basil, I appreciate your passion about this topic. As the editor of Journey to Natural Living, I am passionate about living a healthy, more natural lifestyle. In fact, we moved to property with natural spring water because we highly value clean living. I did not conceal the truth in this article nor fail to note that our waters have been devastated by toxins. The purpose of the article was to examine the various ways fish are raised and relay which is more apt to be polluted or toxic and which produce a healthy fish to place on our dinner plates. I was most excited to share aquaponics, the sustainable way of raising healthy fish and produce to the public eye, as many people are not yet aware of this innovative, up and coming science. I was most interested in delivering hope and solutions. Aquaponics can be achieved on a small scale for personal use at home in a small system as well as in a large commercial green house setting. I wrote this article to inform the public of ways we can actively take our health into our hands by raising or purchasing truly, healthy and nutritious fish.

4 Lorene { 08.27.14 at 11:47 am }

B-Basil, the article is offering options and solutions. The article mentioned Fukishima and the other hazards you’re ranting about. What? Are you not happy that they didn’t go into graphic detail? That wasn’t the point of the article. Publik education apparently forgot to teach you reading comprehension and critical thinking and how to decipher the point of the story.

Farmer’s…thank you for the article. I will be checking with my local grocer regarding their supply of fish and seafood and will be checking for Whole Foods Market.

Good information. Thanks again.

5 B-Basil { 08.27.14 at 10:19 am }

In your editorial or Fish for Dinner; regarding the ‘Ocean’ fish. You failed to discuss the (known) pollution ‘fields’ in the OceanS. That AND ALL the radioactivity in the OceanS from underwater Nuclear testing SINCE the 1950’s and then adding to that ALL the pesticides, herbicides and fungicides draining (by the 1000’s of gallons daily) into that precious water system dependent upon by billions of humans since the dawn of time.
Yes, you CAN eat some fish (safely) from that cesspool but not for long.
Independent studies of the radio active material cesium has shown up in ALL salmon except Copper River Salmon. Be ready to NO LONGER eat from the waterways as they ALL are polluted with only a very few exceptions like a few mandatory, pristine lakes allowing NO motor boats or polluting vehicles (Stupid Humans; polluting their drinking water to the point of [virtually] NO RETURN!). The Largest Great Lake; Lake Superior, is SO polluted it is almost DEAD! Use that once drinkable water for what?
When 100’s of Millions of people are dying from dehydration and NO drinkable water is available – what will they do? I will be gone by then but our grandchildren will have a real issue to deal with in our drought – stricken era.
Much of our ocean is dying right in front of our eyes and we can, now, do just about nothing to stop it. Starfish disintegrating and other with toxic levels of man-made poisons; fish you CANNOT, NOW, consume.
So why DID you leave that out? To stop a panic; the public NEEDS to KNOW and PANIC, this time, would be GOOD to kick start something that should have started 100 years ago – thinking about Mankind’s future. We WILL NOT find another planet to migrate to in time to save our species yet you allude to non of the above. Does the corporate world have a ‘GAG ORDER’ on you?

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