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Friday, July 09, 2010

Let's Talk Fish

The June 30, 2010 Wine Spectator magazine had an excellent article called "Sea Change", talking about traditional fishing and farmed fish. There is so much encouragement to add fish to our diets and so much misinformation about the fish we actually can buy in the supermarket, that I found this article very enlightening.  Here follows my own summary:

(This article was by Sam Gugino)

  • Twenty years ago farmed seafood on the nation's dinner tables was only shrimp and salmon.  Today it is close to 50% of all fish sold by Samuels & Sons, a wholesaler in Philadelphia.
  • Farmed seafood is becoming increasingly important as natural fish habitats are depleted and world population increases.
  • Aquaculture is farming in water instead of on land.  It takes place in both natural environments, like rivers and lakes, or in artificial ones such as inland ponds that raise tilapia and catfish.
  • Oysters, mussles, etc, are raised in salt water. Salmon is bred in floating pens off the shores of North and South America and Northern Europe.
  • Aquaculture is both a way to create cheaper and greater quantities of seafood, but also as a response to the near-extinction of wild fish, such as Atlantic salmon.
  • Farmed tilapia comes primarily fron Latin America and Asia; catfish is commonly farmed in the U.S.
  • White-tablecloth restaurants have recently been purchasing farm raised sea bream, branzino, yellowtail and bluefin tuna.
  • China has been farming fish for more than 4,000 years.
  • The U.S. is the 10th largest producer of farmed seafood, but is the world's largest importer
  • Carnivorous fish (salmon) are fed wild-caught herring, reducing the amount that the wild salmon have available.  One response is to put farmed fish on a vegetarian diet.
  • Fish ranching is the practice of catching young, wild fish and fattening them up in pens at sea, creating the same problems as farming: uneaten food, fish waste, antibiotics and antiparasitics and chemicals to pass into surrounding waters.
  • Asian shrimp have been raised on farms whose construction decimated coastal habitats.
  • Freshess is one of the hallmarks of farmed fish.  Some chefs say farmed fish tastes sweeter and is cleaner.
  • Wild fish fillets are thicker, which makes them more moist after cooking.
  • Wild fish are larger because they are older and can eat at will.  Farmed fish are given an allotted amount to eat and economically they have to be sold younger and smaller.
  • Farm raised salmon is milder and fattier than wild salmon.  Their special diet results in the milder taste, less movement in the pen than wild salmon in the ocean makes their fat content higher (see, everybody needs exercise!)
  • Wild shrimp from the Gulf of Mexico  are juicier and firmer than their farmed brethren.  However, Mexican white shrimp from the Sea of Cortez are thought to be the best flavored of all the farmed.
  • Some experts point out that many farms are learning to operate with virtually zero discharge of waste products.
  • Expanding aquaculture might mean prices go down as quantity goes up.
This is a photo on an ancient farm pond in Hawaii...click on the photo and the Flickr page will tell you about it.
  
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