Kelly Spencer - Happy Healthy YOU
(A wellness column by Kelly Spencer: writer, life coach, yoga & meditation teacher, holistic healer and a mindful life enthusiast!)
Eating fish as a meat substitute is a recommended choice for you and your family, according to Canada’s food guide.
Fish is a nutrient-dense food, low fat, high protein and easy to digest. Most fish are rich sources of iron and a good source of vitamin B-12.
Scientists of Friedrich Schiller University Jena and Jena University Hospital decoded impact of omega-3 fatty acids present in many fish sources such as salmon. Studies report that the human body can’t make significant amounts of the healthy omega-3 fats found in fish, making fish an important part of the diet. Also, fish are low in the "bad" fats commonly found in red meat, called omega-6 fatty acids.
A growing body of evidence indicates that omega-3 fatty acids provide a number of health benefits. They help maintain cardiovascular health by playing a role in the regulation of blood clotting and vessel constriction and are important for prenatal and postnatal neurological development. They may reduce tissue inflammation and alleviate the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and may play a beneficial role in cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), as well as reducing depression, halting mental decline in older people and promoting immune system health and more.
But something is fishy here. (Yes, lame pun intended.)
In 2014, the Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a report stating “If you eat fish regularly, chances are you're getting too much mercury and too few omega-3s.” Most fish choices such as shrimp, don’t have enough of the omega-3s that we need.
Mercury itself is a naturally occurring element that is present throughout the environment and in plants and animals. But human industrial activity (such as coal-fired electricity generation, smelting and the incineration of waste) accumulates the amount of mercury which eventually finds its way into lakes, rivers and the ocean, where it is gobbled up by unsuspecting fish and other marine life, according to Earth Talk Environmental e-magazine.
Fish farms (yes, there is such a thing) are huge. In fact, industrial fish farming or aquaculture, is the fastest growing form of food production in the world. About half of the world's seafood now comes from fish farms. And like most inventions, the intentions were good, but the outcome is proving otherwise.
While the levels of chemicals are approved at “appropriate levels,” fish farms depend on chemicals to operate. According to Finfish Aquaculture Waste Control Regulation (FAWCR), chemicals that have been used in BC salmon farms include: Ivermectin, emamectin benzoate, oxytetracycline, florfenicol, Romet 30, sulfadimethoxine and ormetoprim, sulfadiazine and trimethoprim, tricaine methanesulfonate, formaldehyde, florfenicol and hydrogen peroxide.
You know that pink coloring of salmon? It may not be real!
Wild salmon get their colour naturally from the tiny crustaceans like krill they eat. Farmed salmon’s diet is of pellets and the pellets include synthetic colourants canthaxanthin and astaxanthin to give farmed salmon flesh a pink hue. Without these colorants, farmed salmon would be an unappealing grayish-white color.
The farmers actually pick from a colour fan, much like you would get at a paint store when picking the colour for your new family room wall. They choose the colour of their end product – often preferring the vibrant red that consumers associate with healthy, wild sockeye salmon.
One of the most significant and well-studied impacts of salmon farming on wild salmon is the transfer of sea lice from fish farms to juvenile wild salmon during out-migration. In an attempt to control sea lice levels on salmon farms, emamectin benzoate (EB), marketed as SLICE, is added to the feed of farmed fish. According to a 1997 report on Insecticides used in the urban environment, Emamectin benzoate belongs to a class of chemicals called avermectins, which are axonic poisons affecting nerve cells.
So how can we swim upstream into this dilemma? (I know... enough with the fish puns). Are all aquacultures bad for us?
David Suzuki, Canadian scientist and environmentalist, recommends when it comes to fish to look for fish at local markets labelled “best choice” by SeaChoice.
In 2006, the David Suzuki Foundation partnered with four internationally respected Canadian conservation organizations - Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, Ecology Action Centre, Living Oceans Society and Sierra Club British Columbia. Together they formed SeaChoice, Canada's most comprehensive sustainable seafood program. This program assists Canadians take an active role in supporting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture at all levels of the seafood supply chain.
Dr. Mercola, a bestselling author, states “canned salmon labeled 'Alaskan Salmon' is a good bet, as Alaskan salmon is not permitted to be farmed. Avoid Atlantic salmon, as typically salmon labeled 'Atlantic Salmon' currently comes from fish farms. Sockeye salmon cannot be farmed, so if you find sockeye salmon, it's bound to be wild."
Whether you're in a grocery store or a restaurant, ask the seafood clerk or waiter where the fish is from. If it's wild, they will have paid more for it, so they're likely to understand the value proposition. Since it's a selling point, they will know where it came from. If they don't have an answer for you, it's a red flag that it's farmed. And while some farms are sustainable, how do you know? Talk to the managers of seafood departments or of restaurants, ask them for healthier sustainable, organic choices. They might look at you cross-eyed and confused, but if enough people ask, you can be sure the market will catch the demand.
Instead of 'floundering' as consumers, we can spread the word and use our purchasing power to place a demand for higher quality, sustainable seafood.
David Suzuki’s partnership with SeaChoice has great suggestions and resources. See www.davidsuzuki.org.