here fishy fishy fish. Where is my fishy fishy fish?
February 13, 2003 3:48 PM   Subscribe

Ever wonder where that salmon steak on your plate came from? It turns out that it was either farmed or caught in the wild, and like everything else these days, the origins of salmon can spark a political debate. On one side are those how believe there are great costs in the farming of salmon, while others feel farming salmon is good for industry and the environment. "If you are what you eat, but don't know what you're eating, do you know who you are?" I cannot for the death of me remember where I heard this quote
posted by elwoodwiles (32 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Like all things grown in an intensive monoculture, farm raised salmon can't be good. It takes a helluva lot of antibiotics to keep them from becoming thoroughly infested with lice and worms; and their wastes end up poisoning the seabed. It's just not a good scene at all.
posted by five fresh fish at 4:03 PM on February 13, 2003

As a mostly vegetarian who occasionally eats water-breathers as a sort of ethical exception to my vow not to cause suffering to sentient beings, I have to say I am pretty sick of salmon. It seems to be on every menu for brunch in NYC, for example, and there are many many uninspired ways to serve it. We're practically swimming in the stuff. That and tuna.

Back to the beans.
posted by Slagman at 4:07 PM on February 13, 2003

Vietnamese catfish are a big political issue as well. Or, did you already know that?
posted by mischief at 4:07 PM on February 13, 2003

Biggest issue of all, though,is overfishing in all our oceans. Once again, we humans are managing to completely fuck up an ecosystem...
posted by five fresh fish at 4:18 PM on February 13, 2003

Seems to me if the ecosystem is so fragile that something as simple as overfishing can destroy it, that we wouldn't be here right now. Or at least that people looking for aliens should give up right now.

But then again, I'm a big believer in the idea that it takes a hell of a lot more than overfishing, too much logging, etc. to ruin the entire ecosystem.

Nature doesn't give up without a fight.
posted by shepd at 4:30 PM on February 13, 2003

Stay with Big Mac! Never lets you down.
posted by Postroad at 4:44 PM on February 13, 2003

Previous MeFi discussion of salmon farming.
posted by liam at 4:49 PM on February 13, 2003

Oh, but you see, earth and life will be resilient, sure, but if we overfish, we may not be here ourselves when the fish come back.
posted by Slagman at 4:50 PM on February 13, 2003

(self post) from my blog back in December, 2002.

Like to add, farming catfish in fresh water. What I have read is a different tail(sic). As it is environment safe and makes good cash profit.

Sea lice a big issue with salt water farming besides the engineered fish that escape into the wild. Plus the red dye tastes like red, yuck.
posted by thomcatspike at 5:05 PM on February 13, 2003

Stay with Big Mac! McFish Never lets you down.

mmm, Polluck.
posted by thomcatspike at 5:07 PM on February 13, 2003

A Seafood Lover's Guide as to what seafood is "safe" to eat, and what's making you an accomplice to the destruction of the planet. I believe they have pocket cards too...
posted by togdon at 5:08 PM on February 13, 2003

Seems to me if the ecosystem is so fragile that something as simple as overfishing can destroy it, that we wouldn't be here right now.

Huh? What, because humans were being overfished by space fishermen while we evolved and we survived that so it must be okay, right? What in the name of (place something sacred here) are you talking about? It seems to be English but it's devoid of content or reason.

But then again, I'm a big believer in the idea that it takes a hell of a lot more than overfishing, too much logging, etc. to ruin the entire ecosystem.

Facts, figures of any kind to go with that, um, belief?
posted by George_Spiggott at 5:12 PM on February 13, 2003

"Nature will not give up without a fight".

Yes. Thank goodness for that. Pass the dodo-burgers, will you? Mmm yes, that River Thames salmon sure is tasty.

Seriously, that's just woolly, magical thinking. If you extract a renewable resource at a faster rate that it renews, eventually it will be all gone.

If that resource is something that many species depend on -- rainforest trees, krill, sardines, clean water -- then whole ecosystems can and do disappear.
posted by i_am_joe's_spleen at 5:13 PM on February 13, 2003

Farmed salmon is nasty stuff. I never buy it.

I was upset to read in the second link: "In British Columbia, at least three rivers have now been populated by escaped Atlantic salmon . . ." Salmon farming wouldn't bother me if it didn't have a negative impact on the wild salmon population.
posted by D.C. at 5:24 PM on February 13, 2003

More soylent green, anyone?
posted by spazzm at 6:47 PM on February 13, 2003

Alive without breath;
as cold as death;
never thirsting, ever drinking;
clad in mail, never clinking.
Drowns on dry land,
thinks an island
is a mountain;
thinks a fountain
is a puff of air.
So sleek, so fair!
What a joy to meet!
We only wish
to catch a fish,
so juicy sweet!

The Two Towers
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

Also, togdon, thanks for link in your post.
posted by cup at 7:30 PM on February 13, 2003

The true fishy delicacy...
posted by Plunge at 7:45 PM on February 13, 2003

We have a grocery store in town that has a good buyer, and she pays extra for the good stuff, so when salmon is in season and freshly flown into Chicago, one truckload of it a day stops off at this store about 8 in the morning. She picks through it, paying to take first choice. We eat the stuff for a month about every other day, and then it's gone. 7-10 bucks a pound, and worth every penny.

I usually weaken about a month later and buy some farm salmon. Then I curse my stupidity, and swear off the stuff until fresh salmon is back in season.

Fresh wild salmon is just good. I've been spoiled, and that other stuff just does not cut it for my tastes. Kind of like those weird ass shrink wrapped tomatoes in the winter compared to them fat juicy monsters hanging on the vine in summer.

Spent a week eating nothing but walleye we caught in Canada a while back. That was heaven. I'd love to eat truly fresh salmon some day(i.e. out of the river, and into the pan).
posted by dglynn at 9:06 PM on February 13, 2003

George, I'm referring to fishing by anything. When a bear catches a fish, that's fishing. When a shark munches on a guppie, that's fishing. When a blowfish eats a goldfish, that's fishing.

You see where I'm going with this? Or you want to stick to the ludicrous ideas instead? ;-)

And you want some facts and figures? Tell me, forests that have been decimated, does anything grow there? (Yes). My house, bulit on a farm long dead from overfarming, the grass grows really green outside despite this. The dinosaurs, supposedly destroyed by a comet or an ice age (take your pick) still exist as birds. Enough examples?

So, one bird species dies out, joe's spleen, and this is proof that the ecosystem is fragile? Seems to me mother nature is doing A-OK without the dodo. Who are we to argue with Darwin?

My bets are that even if we nuked this planet to hell, it would eventually recover. Three mile island still has life on it, right? There's still stuff alive in Chernobyl.

I highly doubt we're even capable of total destruction of the ecosystem. The best we could hope for, without being purposeful, is the eradication of a species. That would suck (unless it was supposed to be extinct, which we're mucking with by protecting species that aren't hunted, just dying out naturally), but I still doubt that'll happen, since there's enough farming of these fish that they could still be re-introduced.

I guess it's my turn: Prove to me that humanity can, without making it it's sole purpose, destroy the ecosystem. I don't just mean modify, I mean completely make it impossible for life to live on earth.

Fortunately I don't eat too much fish, so I really don't care all that much if the salmon go bye-bye. It's nothing off my back.
posted by shepd at 9:12 PM on February 13, 2003

Fortunately I don't eat too much fish, so I really don't care all that much if the salmon go bye-bye. It's nothing off my back.

Why did you bother with the 8 previous paragraphs justifying your argument? This final one says all we need to know.
posted by niceness at 9:26 PM on February 13, 2003

If you are what you eat, but don't know what you're eating, do you know who you are?

methylmercury (pdf) and Omega-3 fatty acids.
posted by eddydamascene at 10:56 PM on February 13, 2003

shepd, ask the Mayans about destroying an ecosystem.
Skeletons of Maya from the end of the Classic Period show evidence of poor nutrition. Other studies—including pollen analysis—point to the same cause. The steady growth of population in the valley required more and more intensive farming, which had a disastrous effect on the land. The valley just could not support that many people. Poor nutrition and disease meant that the valley was deserted by 1200 AD.

from Washington State University. (one of the guys in the photo is an old family friend...I can't believe he got his master's studying fossil pollen.)

sure, the ecosystem came back, but the Mayans didn't come back with it.
posted by epersonae at 11:53 PM on February 13, 2003

Exactly, epersonae, that's just what I mean. Earth isn't going to suddenly turn into mars because we can't take care of it, and up to now we haven't sucessfully made humanity extinct, so I think we've been doing alright compared to other animals on earth that haven't been so lucky.

But since we now have the ability to be self-sufficient without relying on nature, we're a lot more difficult to kill off than the Mayans. Maybe if a technology eating plant came about, then we'd be in a heap of trouble.

Yes, it doesn't make us impossible to kill off.

All I'm saying is that people put far too little faith in nature. The world isn't a faberge egg. Removing one species from the planet isn't necessarialy a good thing, but I think it'll take far more than that to set us back anything significant. And, with any luck, next time we'll have it figured out.

And why is it I think niceness wasn't actually trying to be particularly nice this time 'round? Or are you just trying to say I should shut up because I'm not part of the problem? ;-)
posted by shepd at 2:12 AM on February 14, 2003

we now have the ability to be self-sufficient without relying on nature

::blink, blink::

That is one of the oddest things I have ever read although, strangely, I think I understand what you are trying to say.
posted by Dick Paris at 2:25 AM on February 14, 2003

Shepd - You and I - all of us - are living inside 'nature' - the atmosphere itself is a byproduct of life on Earth. Production of oxygen, nitrogen and carbon dioxide is crucial to these processes.

But biologists have determined that there are, indeed, "keystone species", species which are far more important to the functioning of the overall system than others.

If we knock off enough keystone species around the world, we may get some "suprises". And, the more species diversity declines, the more species die off around the Globe, the more "brittle" the overall system becomes.

How's your self-contained "space pod" project coming? Don't forget those photosynthesizers! Pack some mycorrhizoidal fungi too! Give the guys at the Biosphere2 project a call. They're far from being able to run a self contained biosphere, but they'll give you some good advice...

.........In principle, yes it's possible. We're a long way away though, and we may obliterate ourselves before we figure out how to be truly "self-sufficient".
posted by troutfishing at 7:41 AM on February 14, 2003

Damned salmon farming. I love salmon too. Hey! Maybe I could cross salmon with emus and get air breathing emu-salmon!!!

That's it. I'm rich. I'm starting Salmu ranch. See you later, suckers.......
posted by troutfishing at 7:43 AM on February 14, 2003

Mmmm... S a l m u steaks.
posted by Dick Paris at 7:47 AM on February 14, 2003

From eddydamascene's link...

Some types of fish may contain significant levels of mercury, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), dioxins and other environmental contaminants.

All wild fish contain these things. The more "vitamins" and benefits like Omega-3s they have, the more pollutants. That's because they all build up in the same place: animal fat. Meanwhile, farmed fish, while lower in some of the pollutants (though notably not PCBs) are also much lower in Omega-3s.

In short, even if you don't give a rat's ass about destroying ecosystems (or if you subscribe to shepd's cosmic pollyanna view) or about killing stuff just to placate your taste buds, eating fish is a raw deal - the cons outweigh the pros.
posted by soyjoy at 7:55 AM on February 14, 2003

I buy wild Salmon from Alaska and ship it here to Maryland flash frozen its about $15 a pound delivered. It tastes diffrent from any Salmon I've bought in the store or restaurants so I'm inclinced to believe most Salmon on the market on the East Coast is farmed raised.

soyjoy -- I read you blog and it seems to make blanket statements about beef and dairy products being unhealthy. While I agree that most processed meat and dairy one buys in the store is unhealthy, organic, raw, unprocessed meat and dairy is an entirely diffrent animal. It just seems unfair to say that meat and dairy is bad when in fact it's the processing and handling of those products that make it unhealthy. For example studies show people who eat more saturated fat get more cancer. Chemicals such as PCBs are stored in fat so this would follow. What we really need is reform of the meat and dairy industry to organic standards and charge the consumer what it really costs (2 to 4 times current prices) and that will be what brings down consumption. But so long as the industry can get away with makeing cheap dairy and meat products using modern unhealthy processing technologies there is little hope for change.
posted by stbalbach at 8:24 AM on February 14, 2003

stbalbach - one tiny correction: I make statments that are linked to mainstream news stories documenting the truth of the statements, often using the wording of the headlines. For instance, it was the Wall Street Journal, not me, that said 'Healthy' Seafood Can Still Pose a Serious Illness Threat and then went on to debunk the blanket concept of fish as a "health" food.

I agree with you completely that we need the meat and dairy industries and others reformed to organic standards (for starters). But nutritionally, these are two different, ahem, animals. I have no doubt humans are biologically capable of getting good nutritional value from meat (our adaptability to different possible circumstances is what has made us thrive), but dairy is food that's specifically designed for a completely different type of animal and even in its purest state is not optimal for us (I'll provide links on hormones and problems with 'raw' milk if you wish). But the point is not whether these foods are possibly healthy in a perfect organic world, it's what can we / should we eat now. And in a dioxin-saturated world, animal fat is just more trouble than it's worth.
posted by soyjoy at 8:54 AM on February 14, 2003

Thanks soyjoy, it's been a while since someone was able to insult me with a word I didn't understand... Will add that to my vocabulary FFR. Pollyanna. Good word. :-)

Although, this doesn't mean I agree with it. But hey, when you've got the better dictionary, I'll let you win.

Oh, and speaking of dioxins, we finished putting the vinyl on our shed in record time, thanks to a multitude of misconceptions and doomsdayers. Took a lot less time than was expected, too.
posted by shepd at 11:52 AM on February 14, 2003

stbalbach - So you buy that flash-frozen Alaskan salmon too, huh? It's great stuff...but if the rest of the poor saps on the East coast learn what they are missing......well, that will be the end of the wild Alaskan Salmon! ~ If I hear that the Alaskan salmon are threatened, I may have to quit that habit...

......that's why I'm considering crossing salmon with emus.
posted by troutfishing at 12:11 PM on February 14, 2003

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