Salmon: A Fish Story

Wild salmon are amazing creatures. Born in the gravel of freshwater streams and rivers, they gradually make their way to saltwater oceans, undergoing along the way certain physical changes that help them adapt; then, at the end of their lives, they return to their birthplace to spawn. And the cycle continues.

Super Simple Salmon

Super Simple Salmon | Photo by SLINKYWINK

Unfortunately, pollution, dams. and overfishing have severely threatened this cycle of life. The Atlantic salmon, which once migrated up such mighty rivers as the Hudson, Thames, Seine, and Rhine are now severely depleted. In 2004, the discovery of a salmon swimming in the Seine made big news; it had been a century since the last salmon sighting. If you live near the Atlantic Ocean and its tributaries, you are most likely eating farmed salmon.

On the Pacific side of the United States, the situation is better for wild salmon, although they face the same threats and obstacles as in other parts of the world. Wild Pacific salmon continue to run throughout the coastal Pacific Northwest, from Alaska down to northern California. Among the Pacific salmon still putting up a fight are the Chinook (king), coho (silver), and sockeye (red). These can be found in markets from spring through fall.

Salmon with Lemon and Dill

Salmon with Lemon and Dill | Photo by sorelg

Farmed Salmon: A Ranch in the Water
With wild salmon in decline, aquaculture has emerged as an attractive alternative. Farmed salmon has three advantages over wild salmon: it’s available year round, it’s less expensive, and the supply is plentiful.

However, there is a downside to a large-scale industrial system that packs fish into cramped saltwater pens like feedlots of the sea. Farmed salmon are given pesticides and antibiotics to protect them against the diseases that come from living in such close quarters. But salmon sometimes slip their confines, escaping into the ocean to mingle with wild salmon, corrupting the gene pool and introducing wild salmon to vigorous strains of diseases with which their immune systems cannot cope. Waste and feed problems can also lead to fish and water contamination.

Of course, not all aquaculture systems are alike, and there are many producers who impose strict standards to ensure that they are raising salmon in a way that protects salmon, environment and consumer alike. Ask your grocer for information about the fish-farming practices of the salmon available in your market.

Potato Salmon Patties

Photo by RaniSyn

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