Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Fish was one of the last things I quit. If only I had know this:

For many people farming tends to bring to mind pictures of happy animals roaming green pastures, with a quaint, old farmhouse where the farmer and his wife enjoy a modest lifestyle.  Just as fishing tends to bring up the same relatively innocent images of a fleet of hardworking fisherman braving the weather to earn their living.

Most of us know now, whether or not we try to convince ourselves otherwise, that traditional farming is long gone with the vast majority of animal products at your supermarket and restaurant being factory farmed and being owned by a handful of massive corporations.

Sad to say but fishing looks to be headed the same way. In less than a century, commercial fishing has cleared out most of the ocean with trawling, endangered countless species and destroyed entire marine ecosystems that have shown no signs of recovery, even after 18 years of protection. For some species as much as 80 per cent of what is caught is thrown back, dead.

"As Professor Roberts says, over-fishing has destroyed not just individual species but entire marine eco-systems. The small species that fed the fish we traditionally buy are gone, as are the smaller ones they fed on.

That means the chances of stocks recovering are minimal, even if fishing is halted  -  the world they lived in has vanished."

How about fish farming then?

Over half the world's seafood is now farmed. Whilst on the surface this sounds responsible and sustainable, fish farming has the same dire implications for our environment as factory farming.

In all reality, they are the marine equivalent of a poultry factory farm. Farmed fish produce fattier flesh, contain less omega 3s and are fed more antibiotics than any other livestock. Besides mercury, they contain high levels of PCBs, borminated flame retardants and carcinogens. To maintain the right colour in their flesh they are fed synthetic pigments (think Tasmanian salmon which would otherwise be grey). They are fed soy, chicken manure, hydrolysed feathers and other scraps from poulty factory farms. And for every kilo of farmed salmon, you need to feed them between 2 and 8 kilos of wild caught fish. And daily doses of pesticides such as dioxin and DDT to control disease and sea lice, which still manage to infect and kill large numbers of wild salmon populations. Norway provides a devastating example, where almost 30 river systems have had to be deliberately poisoned in order to stop farm-bred disease. Environmental destruction aside, do you really want to eat all that?

The worst part is that this is the exact salmon that ends up in most restaurant and supermarkets. “You can only safely eat one of these salmon dinners every five months without increasing your risk of cancer,” says David Carpenter, MD, director of the Institute for Health and the Environment at the University of Albany.


And did you know?

Fish oil doesn't just contain omega 3, but unnecessary levels of omega 6, cholesterol and mercury. If omega 3s are good for your heart and cholesterol isn't, perhaps you should get your omegas from a source that is cholesterol free. And white fish contains very little omega 3, farmed fish even less. Plant based sources of omega 3 are plentiful without the side effects.

That fish is low in cholesterol is a myth.

Fish and mercury
For something sold to us as a super healthfood packed full of Omega 3s, why are we warned against more than 1 - 2 servings a week? And pregnant women advised to avoid entirely? As mercury levels continue to rise maybe we should be reconsidering eating fish for our health.

And just in case you thought fish had 3 second memories and were stupid.

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