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Wednesday, May 21, 2008
USDA considers first-ever organic standards for farmed fish
Posted by Andrew Sharpless (Guest Contributor) at 11:58 AM on 20 May 2008
from Grist, Environmental News and Commentary
You may have seen "organic salmon" on the menu in your favorite seafood restaurant or counter. Guess what? It's not organic, according to the USDA. It turns out that some fishmongers have been promoting their fish as organic with definitions of their own.
This week, a USDA advisory panel will consider a key element of the country's first-ever standards for "organic" farmed fish, including salmon. The surprising news is that this standard -- if adopted -- could be a boon for both seafood consumers and conservation.
Salmon are carnivorous fish. It can take up to 10 pounds of wild fish to produce one pound of farmed salmon. So, raising more and more farmed fish means catching more and more wild fish. This is not a good idea in a time when scientists tell us our oceans and its fisheries are on the verge of collapse.
In addition, thousands of salmon are typically raised together in cramped, enclosed open-water pens and, as a result, are prone to disease and blanket the seafloor with mounds of waste, turning the benthic habitat below into a desert. In Chile, as The New York Times recently reported, farmed salmon are sometimes pumped with antibiotics as a prophylactic. These antibiotics include those banned for use in animals in the United States to limit human resistance, including the antibiotic root of Cipro, the drug used to treat anthrax.
Luckily, the USDA's advisory board has proffered an important recommendation: Organic farmed fish must not be fed with wild fish. If implemented, this would allow consumers to know they're not contributing to the depletion of the world's fisheries when they buy "organic" fish.
It doesn't solve the other problems associated with salmon and open pen aquaculture, which may be harder nuts to crack. The advisory board will be addressing these issues in the fall. We'll be watching the USDA process closely to see if "organic" can live up to its initial promise.
Comments from Aroma Thyme Bistro:
We always find salmon that is mislabeled on restaurants menus. It seems to be the an easy thing to get away with for restaurants, unless someone like me starts asking questions. In fact I found Legal Seafood, the chain restaurant, to be promoting the wrong salmon once to us. They ended up apologizing after 20 minutes of research with the manager on duty.
This one gets even better, a local restaurant reviewer has even been fooled and misrepresented fresh wild Alaskan salmon in one of his reviews. The season was shut down and the vendor they were buying from did not have any, I tried to buy some from them after the review. It turned out that the vendor never had any, remember it was out of season. And can you believe this local restaurant reviewer printed they had wild Alaskan salmon at this restaurant.
Aroma Thyme Bistro only serves WILD ALASKAN SALMON, period. We buy from vendors that can tell us were, when and how the salmon are caught.
Does this cost more? In most cases better quality food does cost more. If you have read the dangers on farmed salmon, you will never want to eat this fish again. Everything from dioxins, PCB's & mercury are found in farmed salmon. In fact in some tests a mere half of a portion of this fish contains more of these harmful chemical that the gov't says is safe to consume in one month.
What options do we have? If you like to eat salmon out, then find a restaurant that serves only wild salmon and ask alot of questions. Question like where is it from, how was it caught, when is it in season, what species is it? Maybe call the chef a day ahead and let him/her know your concerns. If the chef is really buying wild salmon he can answer these questions and give you an education on the product. Even go as far as asking the chef the name of the vendor he buys it from. You will know very quickly if they are hiding something or if they have no idea about what they are talking about.
If anyone needs additional help please call me or stop by and pickup a seafood safe pocket guide from us.
Aroma Thyme Bistro
165 Canal St
Ellenville, NY 12428
Dioxins are highly toxic byproducts of industrial processes. Like many other contaminants found in fish, these chemicals are slow to break down, and they accumulate in the bottom sediments of streams, rivers, lakes and coastal areas. Dioxins can build up in the fatty tissues of fish and other animals, and in high enough concentrations pose serious health risks to people who frequently eat contaminated fish. Based on the available data on contaminants in fish, Environmental Defense recommends limiting consumption of farmed or Atlantic salmon partly because of their elevated dioxin levels.