I eat farmed fish

Yeah, I know. I’m supposed to eat the wild kind. And I do. But sometimes I’ll order a fish dish when I’m out that I know ain’t no Alaskan King. Long live The King, I say, all hail the hook-nose. The Chinook is a lovely beast and makes great eating, just ask the bears. And Alaska has the last of the truly great wild fisheries remaining in the West, we are lucky to be reasonably close to the source, not to mention having some reasonably healthy remnant salmon runs of our own. But they ARE remnants. Alas, human population growth and large-scale industrialization has turned many once-thriving natural systems into islands clinging for life among rising seas. I meant that figuratively, but it works as well in a literal sense. If the rising temperatures continue as predicted even pristine places like wild Alaska and their magnificent salmon runs will be endangered.

But they keep telling us to eat salmon. It’s good for us! It’s better than red meat! It’s better than other meat! It’s got omega-something fatty acids, the new go-to ingredient! And we keep hearing about the perils of farmed fish, especially farmed salmon (which is mostly Atlantic salmon, genus Salmo; the Pacific varieties are genus Oncorhynchus), which can be a messy business. Runoffs of feed and waste, pest control issues, and habitat loss are obvious problems much like those associated with terrestrial farming.

But aquaculture isn’t going away. And it’s not just because I like a Cajun catfish filet (a lot of commercial catfish are from farms), which I surely do. It’s because it is big business. The demand for high-quality protein is going up. People expect to be fed and they want to have good, healthy fish. It’s going to take fish farming—hey, why isn’t it fish ranching?—to meet those demands. And I have this terrible sinking feeling that Wild Alaskan Salmon will succumb to the demand and become, eventually, so expensive that only the wealthy will be able to buy it. It will become a boutique food, like caviar. The rest of the schmucks on the planet will get soy paste, chickpeas, and farmed fish. Not that there’s anything wrong with chickpeas and soy paste!

I don’t like to be cynical, dystopian, or pessimistic. But I can’t see the demand for salmon decreasing. Try as a I might, I can’t. And that means the resource will be stressed. So, I expect it will be harder to get. Harder in the sense that it will become prohibitive in cost or that the stocks will actually go down and there will actually be less available. Or both. Seems like a law of nature, not anything people can do, other than quit wanting the stuff. And I don’t see that, like I said. Perhaps we’ll develop taste for jellyfish. Maybe we can grow ’em in tanks and bio-engineer them to be more palatable and nutritious. What do you think? I would have thought that was a nutty notion not too long ago. But we have GMO salmon coming on-line soon and like so many other things science fiction is now science fact.

But I’ll eat a farmed fish. Hell, I was raised a Catholic. We have to eat fish. It’s like an executive order or something. “Mackerel-snappers” was a derisive term in 19th-century America for the Papist immigrant hordes. Maybe I’ve just eaten so much damn fish that I can’t live without it, like an addiction. And when you are a junkie you’ll take a chance on some dodgy shit. I’ll eat a GMO salmon. I will. I don’t think they are that dodgy, really. DNA is organic, man. Totally natural. I’m cool with that. I have to say I like what they are trying to do. I know GMO food scares a lot of people, but not me. It’s not a panacea, no technology ever is, and a lot of technology is way oversold. But that does not mean it can’t be useful. Seems to me that big problems need lots of possible solutions. If I have to eat franken-fish out of a tank, so be it. Plank-grilled, please, with saffron risotto, endive salad, and a nice rosé.



5 thoughts on “I eat farmed fish

  1. The FDA answered the question about whether gmo salmon was “substantially identical” to wild salmon in the positive. They did that because they are scientists and answered the question that they were asked (and were equipped to answer). Many people were upset because of what they believed to be ecological concerns associated with raising of the fish or genetic drift whereby the genes would migrate into wild species. Those concerns may be valid, but the FDA is not equipped to answer them, so they didn’t.

    The market is, and will continue to determine the source of your salmon. When the menu describes your dish as line-caught salmon from the Oregon coast poached in beurre blanc, it will cost more than the salmon (no further description) with pea pods lunch special at the local Chinese restaurant. Perhaps this is a good example of the law of supply and demand when demand outstrips supply. I think one of the concerns with farm-raised salmon is the ecological impact of the aquatic equivalent of factory farming. And that’s valid – I am a firm believer in knowing where your food comes from to the extent that you can. In the scheme of things, though, for all the stuff we cram into our pie holes, one has to wonder if the ills of farmed salmon stack up.

    And, as a side note, I like a lighter Pinot Noir with salmon.


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