(8 January 2004 -- New York) Environmental Defense today praised a new study in the January 9 issue of the journal of Science that found much higher levels of PCB's and several other contaminants in the tissue of farmed than wild salmon. The large study, which analyzed contaminants in two metric tons of salmon, substantiates the conclusions of three previous, small studies that also found high levels of contaminants in farmed salmon.
"The Science study gives consumers yet another reason to choose wild over farmed salmon," said Dr. Rebecca Goldburg, senior scientist at Environmental Defense. "Environmental Defense has long advised consumers to choose wild salmon from Alaska, rather than farmed salmon, because of ecological harm caused by salmon farming. Now scientists have clearly shown that choosing wild salmon over farmed is also better for consumers' health."
Environmental problems associated with salmon farming include:
- Escape of farmed fish - Large numbers of escaped farmed salmon are threatening native salmon and steelhead populations on both the east and west coasts of the U.S. and Canada. This threat comes from competition with native fish, interbreeding with native fish and the spread of parasites and diseases.
- Water pollution - A relatively modest-sized salmon farm of 200,000 fish releases a comparable nutrient waste to the untreated sewage from a town of 20,000 to 65,000 people.
- Heavy use of wild fish as feed - Salmon farming results in a net loss of fish. Salmon are carnivores, and two to three pounds of wild fish are caught as feed inputs for every pound of salmon that is farm raised.
The Science study found sufficiently high levels of PCB's and two pesticides in farmed salmon that, under U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recommendations, adults should only consume about one meal of farmed salmon per month. Children and pregnant women should eat even less farmed salmon, if any. The high levels of contaminants in farmed salmon appear to come from the use of wild fish in salmon feed. According to the Science study, wild salmon had distinctly lower levels of contaminants than farmed salmon, and may be consumed multiple times per month.
"Consumers who want additional advice on choosing seafood that is healthy for the environment and for people can turn to Environmental Defense's website," said Goldburg. Environmental Defense's Seafood Selector at www.environmentaldefense.org/go/seafood includes a list of best and worst seafood picks as well as extensive information on over 150 species of fish.