Seafood: Farm-Raised – Striving for a Healthy Alternative
By Julianne Monica DC, CNS, DCBCN
We all know fish is one of the best things we can eat. It’s a protein superfood – a concentrated protein source, good for cholesterol management and can provide a high daily dose of omega-3 fatty acids in one serving. It is one of the foods that really can be eaten on virtually any dietary plan that includes animal consumption. But what about the ocean pollution and mercury? This has deterred and worries many about this once reliable, healthful protein.
Today, 80 percent of the world's marine populations are fully fished, over-exploited, depleted or recovering from depletion. With seafood growing in demand, it is critical that sustainable fishing practices are followed if wild-caught seafood is going to be available in the future and if farmed seafood is going to be able to supplement wild fish supplies. But is this farmed seafood healthy for us?
According to Seafood Watch, an eco-certification program that sets aquiculture standards and certifies fisheries in association with the Global Seafood Standards Initiative (https://www.ourgssi.org/what-we-do/) there is hope for healthier, edible fish raised in a farm setting. To view Seafood Watch rankings and recommendations, see the link below. They do always recommend a minimum of a “Good” standard or better for your fish food selections: https://www.seafoodwatch.org/seafood-recommendations/eco-certification
But what do they feed all those little fish on those farms? These eco-certification programs are striving to adhere to standards set by the FDA, EU or equivalent. Some major criteria are:
- Feed systems must deliver diets that are nutritionally complete for the species cultured.
- The use of probiotics to support animal health is permitted.
- Non-adulteration feed must not be adulterated.
- Prohibited ingredients: antibiotics, parasiticides and hormones are prohibited in feed.
- Slaughterhouse products from avian or mammalian species are prohibited in feed.
Wild-caught seafood standards must also have certification programs for sustainable, wild-caught seafood. The Marine Stewardship Council, the MSC, is the world’s leader. It uses a multi-stakeholder, international approach to provide incentives for fisheries to address key issues such as by catch and overfishing. Three criteria are used by independent agencies to evaluate that the population is maintained at healthy levels, the ecosystem is intact and the management system is effective. (https://www.msc.org/what-you-can-do/eat-sustainable-seafood/fish-to-eat)
Mercury is an issue in wild-caught seafood. The larger and longer-living types are more prone to mercury accumulation. Most farmed fish are much lower in mercury. The U.S. FDA provides guidelines regarding mercury in seafood, especially for pregnant women and young children. This link is a good guide for my patients as well: http://safinacenter.org/documents/2016/07/mercury-seafood-consumer-guide.pdf/
Global seafood chains are becoming more involved with these initiatives that enhance our sustainability and ensure availability. Very notably is Whole Foods Market. It has embraced these standards and even established some of its own criteria. This description of the company’s practices is an informative, easily followed encapsulation of what these eco- practices should strive to give the consumer: https://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/seafood-sustainability-faq
For sustainable seafood choices and prepping also see: https://www.thespruceeats.com/sustainable-seafood-choices-1665724