Yuck! But the Monterey Bay Aquarium has been hard at work on the exact place where you buy salmon. In summary, if you care about salmon, you literally can’t order salmon without asking lots of questions, but here is a the best choice list:
- Tank farmed salmon in the US
- Sockeye from Fraser River in early summer, Washington caught by reenet
- BAscially any salmon from Alaska by gillnet, seine or troll
- Salmon Roe (Ikura) fro Alaska
Alternatives that are decent choice
- Coho (aka Silver) from BC wild caught.
- Pink or Sockeye from Fraser River (other than early summer)
- Any other salmon from California, Oregon or Washington cause by Gilnet, seine or troll
“Nearly all salmon Americans eat are farm-raised — grown in dense-packed pens near ocean shores, fed fish meal that can be polluted with toxic PCB chemicals, awash in excrement flushed out to sea and infused with antibiotics to combat unsanitary conditions. Some salmon are raised on farms that use more sustainable methods, but you can’t tell from the packaging.
Eating farmed salmon occasionally is not a great health concern, but risks can add up if you eat salmon often. But the long-term environmental damage caused by the industry is substantial. We recommend wild salmon over farmed whenever possible.”
A 2003 report by the EWG showed that farmed salmon in the U.S. has the highest levels of PCBs, toxic man-made chemicals, so Canadian salmon may be slightly better.
One of the biggest concerns is the amount of food required to raise farmed salmon. It generally takes three pounds of wild fish to grow one pound of farmed salmon. The environmental impact of salmon farming is still increasing as global production continues to rise.
Most salmon are farmed in open pens and cages in coastal waters. Waste from these farms is released directly into the ocean. Parasites and diseases from farmed salmon can spread to wild fish swimming near the farms and escaping farmed salmon can harm wild populations. As a result, all salmon farmed in ocean net pens get an “Avoid” ranking.
However, some salmon farmers are making changes to improve their practices. So far, one change has proven successful—raising U.S. freshwater coho using inland tank-based, closed systems. Closed systems reduce environmental risks by containing pollution, disease, parasites and reducing fish escapes and result in a “Best Choice” ranking.
Look for wild-caught salmon or clearly labeled U.S.-farmed freshwater coho salmon. For now, “Avoid” farmed Atlantic salmon.
Seafood Watch recommends wild-caught salmon from Alaska, California, Oregon, Washington and British Columbia, as well as U.S. coho (silver) salmon farmed in inland tanks.