This week, the Washington Post ran an article acknowledging how salmon farming has changed and advanced, making farmed salmon a sustainable alternative to wild-caught fish.
The Post also ran an article about the results of a blind-taste test, in which farmed salmon beat wild, every time.
Oceana, an environmental organization dedicated to “saving the oceans to feed the world,” was quick to respond with a blog post pooh-poohing the Post articles.
“We’re here to set the record straight: farmed salmon are not a sustainable seafood choice, and they’re not good for the oceans. If you want to be a responsible seafood eater, therefore, you should not eat farmed salmon,” writes Justine Hausheer in the Oceana blog.
Apparently Oceana thought this was so good, CEO Andrew Sharpless and celebrity spokesman Ted “Becker” Danson took it, added more hyperbole (farmed salmon is now a “terrible” choice), removed what little context Ms. Hausheer had included and reposted the article in the Huffington Post under their own names. Poor Ms. Hausheer gets no credit in the HuffPo for her original work — the joys of working for an ENGO, apparently.
They maintain the same silly claims in Ms. Hausheer’s original blog post, failing to include any current evidence, lapsing into ignorant comments based on outdated information.
“When you eat farmed salmon, you’re really eating another fish called the jack mackerel, or any number of other wild fish being fed to salmon,” they say.
This is ridiculous. When you eat beef, are you “really eating” the grass the cow ate? When you eat free-range chicken, are you “really eating” the bugs the chicken ate? When you eat celery, are you “really eating” the sunlight the plant used to grow? Of course not. When you eat farmed salmon, you are eating salmon, not whatever the fish ate.
Also, what in the world do they think wild salmon eat? They eat other fish.
However, they build on this to try and argue that farmed salmon is not sustainable.
“Even if the ratio of wild fish to farmed fish it (sic, in Hausheer’s blog) 1 to 1, you are still eating a pound of jack mackerel or another wild species—which are likely in trouble—when you eat your farmed salmon.”
Ignorance. How could Ms. Hausheer, Danson and Oceana’s CEO ignore the concept of trophic levels preached by Dr. Daniel Pauly, scientist and member of the Oceana board? Really, you’d think they would read what’s on their own website. You’d especially think the CEO would know better!
But we’ll enlighten them.
Basically, the concept is like a pyramid. The zooplankton at the bottom provide food for small fish, which in turn get eaten by bigger fish , which in turn get eaten by bigger fish and sea creatures up to the top level ocean predators. Each level increases by a factor of 10.
That means wild salmon eat 10 times their weight in small wild fish.
Farmed salmon currently eat 1.1 times their own weight in small wild fish.
Which is more efficient?
Ms. Hausheer, Danson and Sharpless are apparently unaware of the drastic changes made in salmon feed over the past decade which have made this efficiency in farmed salmon possible. Aquaculture has grown worldwide, but the capture fisheries that supply feed ingredients have remained static, because farmers have been busy sourcing alternative, more sustainable sources of protein. The fish meal and fish oil content in salmon feed is half what it was a decade ago, and continues to decrease.
However, they ignore this to make more ignorant statements about feed ingredients, particularly jack mackerel used in Chile.
“The jack mackerel fishery is in very bad shape, and a responsible eater can’t feel good about that choice,” Ms. Hausheer writes.
Danson and Sharpless take it one step further.
“Eating three pounds of jack mackerel straight from the oceans to your plate is a far better choice for the environment and for your health,” they say.
That’s just stupid. It makes no sense to condemn farmed salmon for eating jack mackerel, and then encourage people to eat more jack mackerel. Especially when salmon farmers are actively working to reduce wild fish as an ingredient in salmon feed! Let’s eat MORE jack mackerel, that will save them!
Another ignorant and misleading statement they make Is when they condemn Chilean salmon farmers for using “over 300,000 kilograms of antibiotics a year.”
They give no source for this information, but we know it’s from a request for information Oceana filed back in 2009.
They fail to mention that the reason the antibiotic usage was so high in the two years of information Oceana received (2007-2008) was because the industry was dealing with its first outbreak of the salmon virus ISA, which had never been seen before in Chile.
It’s misleading to conclude that Chile uses “over 300,000 kilograms of antibiotics a year” based on this information. That would be like concluding that 138 million Americans get a flu shot every year, based on the number of Americans who got flu shots during the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.
The biggest problem with Oceana’s blog posts is that they are obviously stuck in the past, citing outdated information in an attempt to discredit an article about how salmon farming has moved beyond those outdated practices.
It’s about as relevant as writing an article about how dangerous leaded gasoline is to the environment and human health. No one cares, because we don’t do that anymore.
Next time Hausheer, Danson and Sharpless want to write about farmed salmon, they should consider using current information instead of making a fool of themselves.