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What are the benefits of wild-caught fish over farmed fish?

Wild-caught fish offer nutritional, food safety, and environmental advantages over farmed fish.

Nutritional advantages of wild fish versus farmed fish
Farmed fish are fed unnatural diets that feature foods to which fish are not adapted, such as grains and soy.

These artificial diets resulted in unnaturally high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, and low levels of omega-3 fatty acids. For more information on the fatty acid imbalance in farmed fish, see Farmed Salmon Get More Lice, Lose Omega-3s, Farmed Fish Possess Unhealthful Fat Profiles, Farmed Tilapia Taken to Task, and Farmed Salmon's Diet Yields Unhealthful Cardiovascular Effects.

The fat imbalance in farmed fish matters because most people assume that fish provide ample amounts of omega-3 fatty acids — and the average American’s diet provides extremely high levels of omega-6 fatty acids, and unhealthfully low levels of omega-3 fatty acids: an imbalance unprecedented in human history.

This extreme imbalance matters because human beings evolved on diets containing roughly equal amounts of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, consuming at most three molecules of omega-6 fatty acids for every molecule of omega-3 fatty acids.

In stark contrast, the average American consumes 10 to 20 molecules of omega-6 fatty acids for every molecule of omega-3 fatty acids — an imbalance that promotes chronic inflammation, among other problems.

For more information about the adverse health consequences of America’s unhealthful “omega imbalance” see the Omega-3/6 Balance page of our website.

Food safety advantages of wild fish versus farmed fish
Major scientific studies have shown that farmed salmon contains substantially higher levels of man-made contaminants such as PCBs, compared with wild salmon. There’s good reason to believe that other farmed fish are similarly contaminated, because they’re given similar kinds of feed.

And, according to The Audubon's Living Oceans Campaign, “farmed salmon are fed more antibiotics per pound of ‘livestock' than are any other farmed animal.” That practice can result in antibiotic residues in the flesh of farm salmon — a problem that also plagues industrially farmed chicken and pork.

Environmental harms of fish farming
Industrial salmon farms raise their fish in crowded net pens that are anchored in stationary locations.

As a result, the sea floor beneath those pens becomes contaminated with fish waste, antibiotics, and pesticides. In addition, if they well documented fact that industrial salmon farms act as incubators for salmon diseases — especially viruses — and sea lice.

Although sea lice are a natural feature of the oceans, and are found on wild salmon, the salmon in salmon farms bear many more lice, which they spread to the surrounding ocean and to wild salmon that migrate nearby.

Salmon farms feed their fish pesticides designed to kill lice, but these toxic chemicals are increasingly failing to control the swarms of lice found in salmon farms. For more information on that see Farmed Salmon Get More Lice, Lose Omega-3s, and other articles in the Farmed Salmon section of our newsletter archive.

In addition, industrial salmon farms feed their fish vast amounts of small “forage” fish such as sardines and herring, which form a critical part of the ocean food chain. This practice robs wild fish of a critical part of their diet, which harms and could lead to the collapse of fisheries upon which millions of people depend.

See the Aquaculture (Fish & Seafood Farming) section of our newsletter archive for articles that convey compelling evidence of the environmental dangers of industrial salmon farms.