However, where it comes from is another story: Many waters where fish are commercially farmed and harvested are rife with pollution and heavy metals. What's worse, while the fish are regularly exposed to these dangers, the commercial use of pesticides and antibiotics on fish make them a health risk, instead of a health benefit.
One way to reduce your exposure to these dangers and ensure that you get safe, toxin-free fish: Stay away from farm-raised fish.
Unfortunately, the choice between wild-caught fish and farm-raised 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 the risk of mercury contamination is higher in wild salmon, tuna, and swordfish, its farm-raised variants are affected by run-off from land-based sources of pollution, given most farms are found on ocean shorelines. This means that farmed fish are exposed to things like agricultural run-off such as pesticides and herbicides, as well as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCB) and dioxins – persistent environmental pollutants that are highly carcinogenic.
In addition, most farmed fish are regularly pumped full of antibiotics to prevent diseases and pests – much like how "factory farmed" land animals are drugged to help them cope with living in cramped, unsanitary conditions. How the farms are managed is also a factor in why fish have more toxins compared to their wild-caught relatives. In India, for example, most farms are operated by people with little to no knowledge on the needs of the fish and the proper upkeep of the pond. All this leads to questionable practices in farm management, including poor nutrition (many farms in India use human waste or diseased fish in pellets) and the use of toxic chemicals.
It shouldn't even be shocking at this point that a study has found that farmed fish carry more toxins than wild-caught. This trend is seen in the five most common farmed types, including salmon, sea bass, cod, catfish, and tilapia. In particular, the Atlantic salmon (Salmo salar) is part of this list, as most commercially available fish are raised in farms. (Related: Avoid eating these 11 types of fish to reduce your exposure to mercury.)
Being well-informed about the environmental and health impacts of certain practices in fishing – and doing something about it – may seem like an insignificant thing. But if it's done right, it can put pressure on fish and seafood providers to change their practices for the better. In the U.S., Washington state has recently taken steps to phase out farming Atlantic salmon by 2025, following growing calls from environmental groups in the area to stop the practice after a failure of a commercial net pen to contain farmed Atlantic salmon in the Pacific Ocean last year.
Some ways that you can start making smart and healthy choices include:
Learn more about the effects of mercury in fishing sustainability by following MercuryScienceNews.com today.