Today’s consumers love to fish. With the global population rising and more people to feed every day, though, the world’s oceans and rivers will soon be hard-pressed to keep up. Thankfully, human ingenuity knows no bounds and fish farming has, in recent decades, become a fairly common practice.
Despite how common it has become, there are still a wide variety of misconceptions surrounding the idea of fish farming, in general, and indoor fish farming, in particular. This article will aim to debunk a few of these myths.
Myth 1: It’s Bad for the Environment
The fish farming industry has only been around for several decades and frankly, it didn’t get off to a great start. The outdoor fish farms of yesteryear were accused of all kinds of environmental malfeasance, from polluting oceans to incubating disease and wiping out forage fish. While there is no excusing these early mistakes, fish farmers have really cleaned up their act in recent years.
In fact, indoor fish farming is really a different game, entirely, and it’s much more environmentally sustainable. Indoor fish farming uses less water than its outdoor progenitor and it creates less waste. It uses what’s known as a recirculating aquaculture system (RAS) to remove fish waste products and turn them into fertilisers for crops.
In today’s indoor fish farms, the fish only interact with each other. That means there’s no possibility of introducing or spreading disease.
These land-bound fish farms can also be constructed away from the ocean, meaning that fish can be grown nearer to cities instead of harvested in the ocean and frozen for consumption much later. That’s better for both consumers and the environment.
Myth 2: It Raises Prices
American consumers who eat only wild fish may not realise that the vast majority of wild salmon, to offer just one example, is imported. Unless consumers live in one of the few areas of the world that already have perfect natural conditions for wild salmon production, the same can be said across most of the planet.
It really doesn’t even make sense economically to assume that this wild-caught, imported fish would be less expensive than domestically farmed salmon in any country. While farmed fish do require some resource inputs such as water and food and farming indoors mean they also need electricity, it is typically less expensive to produce indoor raised fish than to ensure a constant supply of imported, wild-caught fish.
Not only are the prices of domestically farmed fish likely to be lower, but they’re also typically more consistent. This is due to the comparative complexity of the supply chain for wild fish, which has far more weak points at which something could go wrong. Anything from inclement weather to a worker’s strike abroad could wind up causing the price of wild-caught fish to skyrocket on the global market, while farmed fish should remain affordable.
Myth 3: Indoor Farmed Fish Aren’t as Nutritious
This is typically not only untrue but actually the opposite of true. Farmed fish often have more omegas, including omega-3s and omega-6s, than wild fish thanks primarily to their higher fat content. After all, farmed fish don’t have to worry about where their next meal is coming from, so it just doesn’t make sense to think that they would be less nutritious.
The flip side of this myth is that some consumers believe that farmed fish must not taste as good. Thankfully, this is also untrue. One Seattle Times article offers all the proof that most consumers will need. It describes a study performed in the D. C. area in which ten kinds of salmon, ranging from wild-caught Alaskan salmon to farmed varieties, were prepared and served to a panel. The panel didn’t know which fish was which, and the results of their blind taste test may be somewhat surprising.
Not only did Costco’s wild-caught frozen salmon make the absolute bottom of the list, while the company’s frozen farmed salmon was ranked the leader in both taste and texture, but farmed fish took all five of the top spots on the list. The bottom five, on the other hand, were all occupied by wild-caught varieties. If this blind study doesn’t drive home the fact that this myth is simply not backed by scientific or anecdotal evidence, it’s likely that nothing will.
Myth 4: It’s Dangerous to Eat
Many consumers believe that farmed salmon is routinely exposed to dangerous chemicals and pesticides. Thankfully, this is also untrue as both inputs and outputs are very carefully controlled. Indoor raised fish are much less likely to be exposed to diseases, to begin with, and when they are, the affected fish aren’t sent to market until they no longer test positive for antibiotics.
This myth may also be linked to initial problems that were present in early outdoor fish farms. Those fish that were farmed directly in the ocean were more likely to be exposed to diseases, chemicals, and pesticides. Like the other environmental issues that were present in early salmon farming initiatives, though, these problems with contamination are a thing of the past.
In fact, wild-caught fish are actually much more likely to pose a threat of exposure to some types of toxic chemicals. Mercury poisoning, for example, occurs in wild-caught fish due to their exposure to the toxic methylmercury that is produced during the process of operating coal-powered plants. Indoor fish, on the other hand, are never exposed to this toxic substance.
Still concerned? Consumers can head to GlobalSalmonInitiative.org for more information about global standards in the indoor fish farming industry and other factors influencing the future of fish production.
The Bottom Line
Put simply, indoor fish farming has gotten a bad reputation. The industry has come a long way since its introduction in the 1960s and it now presents what the United Nations and other global organisations believe to be one of the best possibilities of being able to feed the planet’s growing population. Most of the time, all consumers have to do is actually give indoor farmed fish a try for themselves to see that they have been missing out.