A number of misconceptions revolve around fish farming, though some of those myths are based on history stemming from bad environmental practices in the outdoor aquaculture industry. From sustainability to taste, there is simply a faulty understanding of the facts. We've debunked the top four myths about indoor fish farming.
1) Myth: Indoor fish farming hurts the environment.
Fact: Environmentalists have good reason to be suspicious of fish farms. Previously, these ocean-bound fish stables have been breeding grounds for diseases that can spread to nearby wild marine life. But, indoor fish farming involving recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS), are actually very sustainable. Indoor fish farming is often considered environmentally friendly because it requires less water and produces less waste. Many systems are rather sophisticated and allow for automatic collection and processing of fish wastes into crop fertilizers. As for the spread of disease, these fish only interact with each other in stabilized water, so disease isn't introduced or passed on.
On land, indoor fisheries can be built closer to cities, so less transportation and fossil fuels are required from the farm to the market. Fish grown in the US for US consumers do not involve shipping frozen fish over long distances. On the other hand, fishing boats and the necessary supply-chain distribution of wild-caught fish has a much higher carbon-footprint.
2) Myth: Indoor fish farming raises the price for consumption.
Fact: On the economic side, farm-raised fish are bred to make fish cheaper and more readily available to consumers. Currently, America's aquaculture industry supports only 6% of US food demand, producing primarily oysters, clams, mussels, and some fish. About 90% of fish consumed by Americans is imported, increasing fish prices and contributing to the country's trade deficit. Additionally, global production of fish is much more inconsistent than indoor raised fish, and is susceptible to weather patterns and biological factors (disease, predators). As a result, prices to distributors fluctuate much more than wild caught fish.
3) Myth: Fish raised indoors isn't nutritious or tasty.
Fact: Farm-raised fish have more omegas than fish raised in the wild, due to their higher fat content. Farmed salmon, in many cases, can be just as nutritious as its wild-caught salmon, and can be richer in omega-3s and omega-6s essential fatty acids. As for texture, farmed fish tend to have a little bit more fat in their diet, so they might be a little more tender or softer, compared to a wild-caught fish which may be a little leaner.
According to the Seattle Times, farm-raised salmon had a superior taste profile compared to wild caught salmon. 10 different types of frozen salmon ranging from wild-caught in Alaska to farmed in Norway, were prepared by a head chef and served to tasters from The Washington Post Food section and the D.C. area seafood scene. The panel ranked Costco's frozen farmed salmon the best for taste and texture. The bottom of the list was Costco's frozen wild-caught salmon. Everything else fell between, but farmed-fish took the top five spots, and all the wild-caught rounded out the bottom.
4) Myth: Farm-raised fish is dangerous to eat because of chemicals and pesticides.
Fact: As a rule, RAS operations do not normally utilize antibiotics, except under the rare cases where poor management practices causes where disease to be introduced into a specific tank. The chance of this happening is minimized compared to fish raised in outdoor pins, as inputs and outputs are tightly controlled. In any event, were a specific batch of fish to be treated, like in all animal husbandry, the fish would not be sent to market until a certain period had passed and the antibiotics were out of their system.
And unlike wild-caught fish, indoor grown fish do not pose a threat of mercury poisoning, an increasing problem in fishes harvested in some areas of the world. Toxic methylmercury from the coal-burning power plants that rim the Northern Pacific Ocean in the US, Japan, China, and Mexico can enter the bodies of large wild caught fish, while fish hatched and raised indoors do not face this threat.
Note: Our current indoor fish farm investment, Nevada Sea Dreams, uses innovative Recirculating Aquaculture Systems to safely produce great-tasting fish in an environmentally sustainable manner. The company is also a Monterey Bay Seafood Watch® Collaborator.