Great Barracuda - Sphyraena barracuda

Great Barracuda - Sphyraena barracuda

January 1, 2018

Revisiting the Salmon Question

I don't eat Salmon. I won't serve Salmon. I've banned Salmon from my home and openly shame my immediate family members for even considering Salmon on a restaurant menu.

As I dug and read and conducted research for a project on NW Atlantic and NE Pacific cetaceans, I became even more distressed over how important Salmon are in the ecosystem. A conversation with a person-who-will-remain-anonymous ensued, in which she said, "Don't tell me, I don't want to know. And anyway, there's nothing I can do." I replied, "Yes, there is something you can do. The alternative is bury your head in the sand." As a big Salmon eater, I knew I would not sway her. Instead, I'll do my small part to spread a little knowledge....

Feed: Farm-raised Salmon are fed pellets made from either all or some of these ingredients:
grains, animal byproducts, and fish meal. Before harvesting, the amount of fish meal fed to the pen-raised Salmon is increased from about 30% to 90% to increase the amount of Omega-3. Farmed fishes are being fed wild fishes at the bottom of the food chain that would otherwise be eaten by wild fishes, marine mammals, and sea birds in other parts of the world.
CLICK HERE for FAO information page.
Photo credit: FAO
Color: In the wild, Salmon are carnivores and derive their food entirely from natural prey high in fatty acids, vitamins and carotene. To make up for this gap, farmers add artificial or synthesized supplements to enhance the flesh color before harvesting.
CLICK HERE to read about CARROPHYL (R) a color enhancer.
Photo credit: K. Ganter
Water Quality: Farm-raised Salmon live, feed, and excrete in large, semi-enclosed pens. The excrement and left-over food accumulates or disperses in the surrounding water and on the bottom below, creating changes in the local environment. Pens located in high-current areas are flushed more often and are more environmentally sustainable, but labeling still doesn't require this disclosure.
Image credit: Dr. George Pararas Carayannis
Non-endemic: Northeastern Pacific, farm-raised salmon are Atlantic Salmon which do not occur naturally in Pacific waters. Escapes and pen failures have allowed non-native introductions, and with that, introduction of viruses, diseases and infections which are treated with antibiotics. These illnesses may put wild salmon at further risk.
CLICK HERE for Times Colonist article.
A little additive color with your dinner? Photo credit: Guide to Safe Salmon
Reproduction: Most wild, anadromous Salmons die after spawning. They don't re-enter the ocean and return again to natal streams to spawn a second time. They are a one-and-done species. Each wild salmon taken from the ocean takes away a potential future generation. Additionally, the carcasses of dead Salmons return vital nutrients into streams.
Photo credit: FishWithJD
Predators: Many species prey naturally on wild Salmon: bears, sea birds, pinnipeds, sharks, and Killer Whales. The Southern Resident Killer Whales are known to prey primarily on energy-rich salmon. Atlantic Killer Whales also feed on salmon. Take the salmon out, take the whales out with them... The further Salmon stocks decline, the more these whales are in peril.
CLICK HERE for a podcast and information from NOAA.
Photo credit: NOAA
Offshore Killer Whales have been shown to feed on sharks. There teeth wear down over time from the abrasive skin. These elderly whales then rely on food sharing within the pod. They have been shown to feed on Pacific Sleeper Sharks, Blue or Whitetip sharks, Opah, and halibut. Sleeper sharks are opportunistic feeders and will prey on a wide variety of fishes, marine mammals, and carrion. Large halibut prey primarily on fishes, including... you guessed it... Salmons.

In conclusion, if ignorance is bliss, then knowledge is power. Power to make informed decisions, lifestyle changes, and little changes that do make a big difference.

If you care to pick up a great book on the broader subject, check out "Four Fishes" by Paul Greenberg. Good read.

Cheers and Best Fishes for a fresh New Year!
-Val

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