Toxic Salmon from Fish Farms

Farmed Salmon Found Higher in Pollutants
Thomas Garvey May
Natural Foods Merchandiser
July 2002

Salmon raised in ocean net pens and fed high-fat diets of
concentrated fishmeal pellets contain worrying levels of toxic
chemicals and could pose a health risk to humans, especially the
young and old or those with compromised immune systems,
according to two different studies comparing wild and farmed
varieties.

The farmed salmon samples tested by two independent researchers
in Canada and England showed 10 times more contaminants, most
notably polychlorinated biphenyls, than were detected in wild
species. Scientists traced the contamination to the feed, which
comes from bait fish trawled from the world's oceans in vast
quantities by industrial fleets. Concentrating the nutritional value
of these fish into pellets to produce the high-protein diet for farmed
salmon also appears to concentrate toxins.

For the Canadian study, "Preliminary Examination of Contaminant
Loadings in Farmed Salmon, Wild Salmon and Commercial
Salmon," researchers analyzed five commercial salmon feeds, four
farmed salmon and four wild salmon (one chinook, one chum, two
sockeyes) from the Pacific Coast. The data and findings were
published in the February issue of Chemosphere, a peer-reviewed
environmental science journal.

"The results were very clear," said Michael Easton, a Vancouver,
B.C.-based geneticist and ecotoxicology expert. "Farmed fish and
the feed that they were fed appeared to have a much higher level of
contamination with respect to PCBs, organochlorine pesticides and
polybrominated diphenyl ethers than did wild fish. In fact it was
very noticeable."

In a report released earlier this year, Miriam Jacobs, a researcher in
the toxicology group at the University of Surrey in England,
detected PCBs in Scottish farmed salmon. The levels sometimes
exceeded the recommended maximum daily dietary intake set by
the British government.

Farmed salmon comprise 50 percent to 60 percent of the world
salmon market, compared with just 1 percent 10 years ago,
according to Productive Trade Resources, a Vashon Island,
Wash-based company that helps small- and medium-size
enterprises find markets for food products.

Fish farming is also a growing and lucrative business. There are
more than 5,000 farms worldwide from Norway to Thailand
producing more than 30 million metric tons of fish per year valued
at about $50 billion, according to the World Aquaculture Society.
Those numbers are expected to double in the next two decades, the
organization predicts.

Spokesmen for the industry have pointed to holes in the analysis,
but Easton said the results warrant further research. Charles R.
Santerre, associate professor, Department of Foods and Nutrition,
Purdue University, West Lafayette, Ind., in a letter to the editors of
Chemosphere, pointed out that the levels of PCBs detected were
still below those considered dangerous by the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration.

In a recent analysis by Ireland's Food Safety Authority, researchers
found farmed salmon to have higher levels of toxic pollutants, but
the amounts were below those deemed safe by European
legislation.
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