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What are the pros and cons of farmed fish?

The fishing industry has tried to control some of the variables by farming the most popular varieties of fish, like salmon, trout and catfish. Aquacultured fish grow faster than their counterparts in the wild, and they are often more tender and richer tasting. They are harvested without suffering the stress and damage of being hooked or netted, and they are processed closer to the time and nearer to where they are caught.

Currently aquaculture provides about one-third of the world seafood supply (including shellfish), and this amount is bound to increase to meet the growing global demand for fish that can not be met by wild fishing alone. Although some popular farmed fish -- like trout, tuna and salmon -- are also caught in the wild, others, such as tilapia and catfish, are almost all farm-raised.

Fish farming can be done responsibly, but not all fish farms are the same. Raising salmon and tuna in ocean pens has contaminated nearby water with waste products, food and antibiotics. There have been cases of genetically modified aquacultured fish escaping into the environment where they compete with the surrounding wild population, and there are studies showing that fish meal, which is the primary component of aquaculture feed for carnivorous species, like salmon and tuna, has elevated levels of environmental toxins, particularly dioxins, like PCB (polychlorinated biphenyl), which accumulate in the flesh of farmed fish. Omnivorous fish, like tilapia and catfish, are fed vegetarian pellets, and don’t have dioxin problems.

Raising fish in inland ponds, lakes and tanks is less environmentally invasive than farming in the ocean (although there is some concern about untreated wastewater discharged from poorly run fish farms contaminating ground water), so the most benign aquaculture products tend to be freshwater fish and the few saltwater varieties farmed on land (sturgeon and turbot).

Farmed Fish

Freshwater:

Carp

Catfish

Eel

Rainbow Trout

Tilapia

Saltwater:

Char

Mahi mahi

Salmon

Sea Bass

Sturgeon

Steelhead Trout

Tuna

Turbot

Yellowtail (amberjack, himachi)

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