Do you love to eat seafood?
Do you especially love to eat Salmon?
I do too but after becoming more educated on the state of our Oceans and facts concerning seafood and especially Salmon, I have some important information to share with you.
There is a popular saying that “all rivers run to the sea”. This quote is very poetic but it contains a physical truth as well. All of our terrestrial water returns to the sea. This is reflective of the beauty and cyclic nature of our planet, however, we have negatively impacted this closed system. Our use and improper disposal of industrial chemicals, heavy metals, and radioactive substances are fowling our waters and making aquatic plants and animals unsafe to eat. Common man-made pollutants that reach the ocean include: pesticides, herbicides, chemical fertilizers, detergents, oil, sewage, plastics, heavy metals, and other solids. These contaminants work their way up the food chain where they bio accumulate in larger sea life.
For this discussion we are focusing our attention on mercury. It is one of the major pollutants found in seafood. The burning of coal for electricity, gold mining, institutional boilers, battery manufacturing, waste incineration, and chlorine production all release mercury into the environment. This released mercury finds its way into either our atmosphere or waterways where it bio-accumulates.
Mercury is a neurotoxin and is especially toxic to infants and unborn children. The presence of Mercury during these times in a child’s development causes brain damage, liver damage, nerve pain and dysfunction, headaches, emotional problems, and cardiovascular problems. Adult and elderly populations are also subject to the same issues but it is children in developmental stages of growth that are most affected by any level of exposure.
This brings us to the topic of our discussion, Salmon! As far as seafood goes Salmon is one of the safer fish to eat in regards to mercury bioaccumulation. This is because the lifespan of this fish is relatively short therefore they accumulate less toxins. Larger fish such as swordfish, mackerel, tuna, and shark are more toxic due to their size and longer lifespan. There is one catch to this though (no pun intended), farmed Salmon.
When you are at the grocery store in the seafood department it may be tempting to buy farmed salmon. It is significantly cheaper and it’s still pink so it can’t be that bad right? Wrong. Wild Salmon gets its deep red color from an antioxidant called Astaxanthin. This antioxidant is found in algae, plankton, and krill, which is part of the wild salmon’s diet. Farmed salmon are fed pellets containing synthetic antioxidants, which give them their light pink color. Synthetic astaxanthin is produced from petrochemicals and does not function well as an antioxidant. It has a different chemical structure than naturally occurring astaxanthin which makes it difficult for the body to utilize. The reduced function of this synthetic antioxidant also inhibits its ability to keep the oils in the fish you eat from becoming rancid. You may buy Salmon and not even be able to tell that your fish has gone partially rancid. This is not a concern with wild salmon.
Bio-accumulation of Pollutants
The feed pellets that are given to farmed salmon also have another issue. In an effort to cut costs, many companies recycle unused salmon parts such as fins and gills into their feed. The issue is that this causes high levels of bio-accumulation of mercury and other toxins present in the food chain such as PCBs and dioxin. Both of these substances are industrial products and known carcinogens. Of particular interest dioxin was the active ingredient in Agent Orange.
Farmed salmon are kept in crowded nets to maximize profit. This situation creates the perfect environment for bacteria and parasites. One of the most common parasites that farmed salmon are effected by are sea lice. They feed on the skin of the fish and leave large lesions on the fish. The only way that these are countered in farmed salmon is through the heavy use of antibiotics. These antibiotic treated fish will have antibiotics in their tissues, which are then passed onto the consumer who eats the fish. This damages the consumer’s digestion and contributes to bacterial antibiotic resistance.
I personally avoid seafood based on the high levels of pollution contamination in our oceans. If you do like to consume seafood though, I recommend that you avoid larger fish and stick with salmon and shellfish. If you do eat salmon I highly suggest that you only eat wild caught salmon. The farmed variety is not a healthy alternative.