These days, a large proportion of fish oil supplements come from farmed fish, which are strongly opposed by environmentalists and health experts alike.
The fish may be grown in tanks on land, or in cages in the sea as shown below.
At first glance, farmed fish may seem like a good idea to help protect wild seafood populations from overfishing while meeting the nutritional needs of an ever-expanding global population.
In reality, however, the industry is plagued with many of the same problems surrounding land-based concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), including pollution, disease and inferior nutritional quality. It’s getting so bad that fish farms can easily be described as “CAFOs of the sea.”
Top 11 Reasons Why You Should Never Use Fish Oil From Farmed Fish
1. Wild fish are being fished to extinction to feed the farmed fish
If you thought eating farmed fish protects the population of wild fish, think again.
Many farmed fish are being fed genetically modified (GM) corn and soy, but others require a fish-based diet. Ironically, tiny prey fish like anchovies and herring are now being dangerously overfished to meet the growing feed demands of farmed-fish populations.
As the small wild fish disappear, so large wild fish are left with nothing to eat, so it affects the entire food chain.
The non-profit group Oceana blames aquaculture for declines in whales, dolphins, seals, sea lions, penguins, albatross and many other species. They stated:
“Rather than relieving pressure on wild fish, growing these large carnivores [salmon and tuna on fish farms] requires a steady supply of prey that are caught and ground into oil and meal. As the industry grows, it is straining the existing supply of prey fish, putting additional pressure on populations that cannot supply the demand.”
It takes 5kg of wild fish to feed a farmed fish to the point where it can yield 1kg of meat, which makes it much less sustainable than direct consumption of wild-caught fish. In other words, when you consume a farmed fish you are actually killing several wild fish.
2. Farmed fish are low in Omega-3 and high in polyunsaturated fats due to being fed seeds and grains
Health experts recommend eating oily fish or taking a fish oil supplement to get your daily dose of Omega-3 (healthy dietary fat). But unfortunately, farmed fish have a very low Omega-3 content compared to wild fish, due to their feed being largely composed of legumes and grains such as soy (which fish were never supposed to eat). Fish farmers can’t obtain enough wild fish to feed and quickly fatten up the farmed fish so they save money by supplementing their feed with large amounts of grains and legumes.
Levels of critical omega-3 fats may be reduced by about 50 percent in farmed salmon, compared to wild salmon, due to increasing amounts of grain and legume (e.g. soy) feed.
Farmed salmon, for example, is much fattier than wild salmon, but it contains far less healthful omega-3 fats and proteins, and much more unhealthy polyunsaturated fats.
When you eat fish products in a restaurant or purchase fish from the supermarket, there is a high chance that it came from a farm, although this is rarely identified on the menu or label. One way to counteract the harmful fats in farmed fish you eat, is to take an Omega-3 supplement from healthy wild fish, like Arctic Sea.
3. Farmed fish are fed large amounts of antibiotics
A 2009 report showed that 10 to 12 tonnes of antibiotics were being used in aquaculture every year. Fish farmers are doing their best to reduce this, but any amount is still not great news.
4. Farmed salmon are artificially coloured pink to make them look like healthy wild salmon
Astaxanthin is an additive that gives the salmon the colour a wild fish would have from eating crustaceans. Without it, the farmed fish are grey.
5. Fish in captivity suffer similarly stressful lives as battery hens.
Choosing wild fish is more humane, just like choosing products from free range hens, because they have a less stressful life before consumption.
Research has shown that, like birds and mammals, fish feel pain and stress. The practices of raising fish in extremely confined environments must therefore be regarded as inhumane.
6. Fish cages are painted with copper-based anti-foul paint
This paint is necessary to stop barnacles, seaweed, algae etc from encrusting the cages. Critics are concerned about the health impact this has on the fish, and by extension anyone eating the fish.
7. Fish farms produce lots of pollution
Concentrated antibiotics, pesticides and other chemicals are commonly used to fight diseases and parasites common to fish farms. The effect this has on the surrounding environment is only beginning to be understood, but it doesn’t look good. Take one study, which found a drug used to kill sea lice on fish farms, also kills other marine invertebrates in the surrounding environment, can travel up to half a mile and persists in the water for hours.
Other agricultural pollutants include nutrient run-off from fish excrement, and it’s definitely a problem when fish are farmed in sea cages. There are two causes: overfeeding, and concentrations of fish excrement in the sea underneath the cages.
8. The high concentration of faeces from fish farms harms coral reefs
Fish waste and uneaten feed further litter the sea floor beneath these farms, generating bacteria that consume oxygen vital to shellfish and other bottom-dwelling sea creatures. Farmed fish waste promotes algal growth which harms the water’s oxygen content, posing risks to coral reefs and other aquatic life. Reportedly, the Israeli government shut down two fish farms in the Red Sea after learning that they were promoting algal growth that was harming nearby coral reefs.
9. Farmed Fish are prone to lots of diseases, which then spread to wild fish
The close quarters where farmed fish are raised (combined with their unnatural diets) means disease can spread quickly, and because farmed fish are often raised in pens in the ocean, pathogens can spread like wildfire and contaminate any wild fish swimming past.
Sea lice, a type of crustacean that is easily incubated by captive fish on farms, have become a significant problem and have been blamed for declining numbers of wild pink salmon, as well as the species that eat them (bears, eagles, orcas and others). Other types of lethal viruses spread from fish farms are also now being detected in wild populations, including:
- Salmon leukemia virus, which attacks the salmon’s immune system so it dies of something else, much like HIV’s role in producing the opportunistic infections that kill AIDS patients
- Infectious Salmon Anemia Virus (ISA), also known as salmon influenza, which is highly lethal
- Piscine reovirus, which gives salmon a heart attack and prevents them from swimming upriver
10. Farmed fish escape, interbreed with wild fish, and introduce their diseases and genetic problems to the wild fish population.
There are multiple problems that result when farmed fish escape into the wild (which they do, in the numbers of millions each year). For starters, the ‘wild’ North Atlantic salmon that you purchase may actually be a farmed escapee, making it difficult to know what you’re really eating. The escaped fish also breed with wild fish, and research shows that these hybrid-born fish are less viable and die earlier than wild salmon. This could contaminate the entire gene pool and harm the future of the wild population.
11. The high toxicity level of farmed fish has caused it to be banned and regulated in some places
Because farmed salmon are fed high concentrations of wild fish, they may end up with a higher concentration of pollutant-based toxins than the wild fish originally had.
Norway is the world’s top producer and exporter or farmed salmon. Dr. Anne-Lise Birch Monsen at the University of Bergen, Norway has raised serious concerns about high levels of contaminants in farm-raised salmon.
In 2006 Russia actually banned Norwegian farmed salmon, claiming it contained excessive amounts of lead and cadmium.
Earlier this year, reports of farmed salmon toxicity actually spread through Norwegian news, and the Norwegian Health Department went on the record warning against eating too much farmed salmon.
The new, official recommendation to Norwegian women of childbearing age or who are pregnant is to limit consumption of fatty fish such as salmon to a maximum of two such meals per week.
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If you have a health condition, always follow your physician’s recommendations and prescriptions and do not discontinue a treatment or change your treatment without their advice.
The information in this website talks about the properties these products have demonstrated in scientific trials, and the benefits they have had for some people who have used them. Results may vary. Everyone is different and we cannot guarantee that you will experience the same results. The only way to see if this product works for you, is to try it!