Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The Great Salmon Debate

This morning I received a request from a reader to write about some talking points that the Atlantic salmon farmers have produced.

Having been on the front lines with consumers in a retail seafood environment I have tried to educate myself on the pros and cons of Salmon farming. New York has perhaps some of the best educated seafood consumers due to the presence of those diligent writers, and op-ed columnists at the New York Times. Don't get me wrong, I think that the Times is a great paper. What happens is the same people that come in and asked me for four six ounce center cut Chilean Sea Bass portions (hey people, fish have tails!) after reading a recipe in the Times Wednesday's Dining Out Section are confused about PCB scares and the like involving farmed salmon.

One problem with the farmed salmon debate is the fact that land based proteins have many of the same issues with contamination. The difference here I think is that The beef, poultry, and swine industries have much better lobby groups. Do you think that the runoff and waste generated by farmed cattle is less detrimental than aquaculture? Algae blooms originating downstream from these operations are increasingly harming the ocean environment.

I need to be clear here. Salmon farming could be better. New feeds that are based on proteins
other than wild fish are one part of the solution. Establishing a multiculture system around current salmon farms are another. I spoke with Tim O'Shea, founder of Cleanfish a few months ago and he told me how Loch Duart was introducing sea urchins to the sea bed to feed upon wastes generated above. They might even market the urchins in the future. I think this is a great idea, and certainly less destructive than some current wild catch methods that destroy the bottom habitat in the process of fishing.

Unless we are to all become vegetarians, the perils of meat and seafood consumption will continue continue to challenge consumers and suppliers. Like so many issues today extremists on both sides of the debate make the moderates voice hard to hear. Look, aquaculture is here to stay. As a consumer and a member of the seafood industry I feel it is important to support suppliers in a way that improves sustainability.

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