As a group, fish are excellent sources of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Their fats are largely unsaturated and are especially rich in omega-3 fatty acids, particularly the ones abbreviated EPA and DHA. Because these omega-3s show up in the brain, they are believed critical to the normal development of the infant nervous system. Fish are the best source of omega-3 fatty acids, and practically all health authorities advise pregnant women to eat fish once or twice a week. More than that, some research suggests that EPA and DHA might prevent the blood clots and irregular heartbeats that often lead to heart attacks or strokes. Although the studies are neither consistent nor entirely compelling, the American Heart Association draws on them as evidence that everyone should eat fish twice a week.

If you are one of the people who choose to eat fish twice a week, there are many dilemmas to take into consideration when deciding on which types of fish to eat. Just like any other product on the market today, fish and seafood are loaded with controversial issues such as fish farming, added colors, and toxic chemicals.


There are many areas of concern when dealing with fish and seafood. Just like any other food product today, there are health, environmental, animal rights, and food safety issues surrounding seafood. Without getting into every aspect of these issues, let’s focus on farmed salmon.

The farming of shellfish and other fish low on the food chain causes fewer problems than the farming of predatory fish like salmon. Indeed, salmon farming is so controversial that it has spawned its very own opposition groups. One, the Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture Reform, runs a “Farmed and Dangerous” campaign to encourage you to think twice before eating farm-raised salmon. Farmed salmon, this group says, are raised like cattle in feedlots. They are confined in pools of antibiotics, pesticides, chemicals, and wastes, which then spill the equivalent of raw sewage into local waters. If the fish escape—which millions invariably do every year—they end up in the wrong ocean (Atlantic salmon in the Pacific Northwest, for example), compete for resources, and spread diseases like sea lice to wild fish, and, when they mate with wild fish, change the genetic basis of the population and reduce biodiversity. The Coastal Alliance insists that you are much better off eating wild salmon for reasons of safety, health, and environmental protection.

Since farm-raised salmon constitute such a large part of the fish-farming industry in industrialized countries and in Chile, it is well worth examining these charges. As it turns out, they are backed up by a good deal of evidence. In part because of what gets fed to farmed salmon and in part because farmed fish are less active, these fish have twice the fat and more than twice the saturated fat of their wild counterparts. Their omega-3 content depends entirely on what they are fed, and varies by species and by farm.

Adult salmon are carnivores. In the wild, newly hatched salmon start out eating microscopic plants and animals; as they get bigger and move from rivers to oceans, they eat tiny crustaceans (krill). Some kinds continue to eat krill throughout life, while others eat small fish and then increasingly larger fish. In captivity on fish farms, however, salmon eat the equivalent of dog food: first small and then larger pellets of fish meal and fish oil, soy protein, wheat (as a binder), and vitamins and minerals. The pellets also contain meat-and-bone meal made from the rendered leftover meat, blood, and bones of cows, pigs, and other animals—those very same by-products excluded from “natural” beef because of concerns about mad cow disease. The several billion chickens that get killed for food each year produce tons of feathers, many of which end up as feather meal in fish pellets.

None of that may sound appetizing, but safety, not taste, is the issue in this dilemma. The fish meal and fish oil in the feed are responsible for the PCB problem. Fish have short digestive tracts and the carnivorous types do not grow well or quickly enough unless their diets include fats and proteins from fish. Wild salmon get the nutrients they need by eating other fish; farm-raised salmon get their nutrients from fish-meal pellets. To make fish-meal and fish oil, you grind up wild “industrial” or forage fish—menhaden, anchovies, mackerel, and the like—that do not usually end up on dinner tables but are caught specifically for fish feeding. Many farmed fish need to eat four or five pounds of industrial fish to gain one pound of weight, and some (like farmed tuna) need twice that much or more.

Knowing what fish to eat means knowing:
1. Where the fish comes from.
2. Whether it is farmed or wild.
3. Where it is on the food chain.
4. Whether it is listed in a state advisory.
5. How much fat it contains.


Charles Clover

The End of the Line, the first major feature documentary film revealing the impact of overfishing on our oceans. In the film we see firsthand the effects of our global love affair with fish as food. It examines the imminent extinction of bluefin tuna, brought on by increasing western demand for sushi; the impact on marine life resulting in huge overpopulation of jellyfish; and the profound implications of a future world with no fish that would bring certain mass starvation.

Filmed over two years, The End of the Line follows the investigative reporter Charles Clover as he confronts politicians and celebrity restaurateurs, who exhibit little regard for the damage they are doing to the oceans.

One of his allies is the former tuna farmer turned whistleblower Roberto Mielgo—on the trail of those destroying the world’s magnificent bluefin tuna population. Filmed across the world—from the Straits of Gibraltar to the coasts of Senegal and Alaska to the Tokyo fish market—featuring top scientists, indigenous fishermen and fisheries enforcement officials, The End of the Line is a wake-up call to the world.