If You Eat Salmon, You Should Read This

After shrimp and canned tuna, salmon is the most popular seafood in America.

All Atlantic salmon now—that is, the species is called “Atlantic” regardless of which ocean it comes from—is farmed. It’s tempting, eating-wise—it has a lot of fat, so it’s easy to cook well—but there are serious concerns about the impact raising it has on the environment, as there are with most kinds of aquaculture.

We published an article on Heated about the major pitfalls of farmed salmon. In it, Michael Scaturro documents the problems with salmon farming and the major havoc that it is currently wreaking on the environment in Scotland and beyond. The piece is below, and all I'll say is that if you eat salmon (or are at all curious about how fish is farmed), you should check it out. (Obviously, in the pecking order of things currently endangering people and planet, fish is nowhere near the top, but it remains an interesting/important topic. Plus, we're now in wild salmon season, so this is the best time to look beyond the farmed stuff.)

So, what, exactly, are we supposed to look for? Here's what my friend Paul Greenberg (author, environmentalist, renowned fish expert) sent me the other day:

"Bristol Bay sockeye salmon is a wild, highly nutritious fish that is currently at its peak. Bristol Bay is the most productive salmon fishery in the United States and possibly the world. Some years more than 60 million fish come into the bay and fan out through the region’s tributaries. Because sockeye feed low on the food chain on oily, astaxanthin-rich krill they are extremely high in omega-3s and extremely low in pollutants. But the biggest reason of all to choose Bristol Bay sockeye salmon this year is that they are facing an immediate threat from a massive copper and gold mine that just might get permitted this summer if the Trump administration has its way. Supporting Bristol Bay fishermen now helps them in their now decades long fight against the mine and can further help them reverse the mine’s permitting should a new administration enter the picture in 2021."

Beyond that, here's a general primer: Use wild Pacific salmon if at all possible. King (aka Chinook) and sockeye—which is in general leaner and much redder—are best, even if you have to buy it frozen. Coho is also good; chum is not bad; pink (or humpy) is usually canned. Buying fresh wild salmon—most of which comes from Alaska—will be occasional (we're in peak season now) and expensive. Frozen is a good alternative.

Intentionally deceptive or well-intentioned but ignorant purveyors might not always have reliable information. In order to find the best sustainable sources—there are some responsible farms, but you need to seek them out—be prepared to ask questions, and check for current recommendations online (the most prominent authority, the Seafood Watch, run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, updates frequently, and is a really valuable resource).

Paul says a large portion of the U.S.-produced sockeye is coming from Bristol Bay, so if you buy frozen or canned salmon at Whole Foods, for example, there’s a very large chance it’s from Bristol Bay. Also, if you happen to live in Portland, Oregon, Eugene, Seattle, Austin, or NYC, you can sign up for this wild salmon CSA. Or Wild Planet is a good source for sustainable canned salmon.

Since the whole farmed fish reality can be a lot to digest, I'll lay off the seafood recipes for today. Check out the dishes below (all good for fast, easy, weeknight cooking) and I'll see you Friday.



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