Morehead City, N.C.
May 9, 2013
TO THE EDITOR:
Regarding your May 5 editorial, I don’t write in support of or in opposition to the recreational fishing bill. I address your comments about farm-raised fish. You said: “Those who have eaten farm-raised fish and wild caught fish know there is a distinct difference. Farm-raised fish are bred in pens, overseas and in the United States, with their waste. And they are not good.”
I teach the aquaculture technology program at Carteret Community College. Your comments are contrary to the principles I teach. I point out some facts based on my professional expertise in aquaculture and farming of fish.
Farm-raised fish are bred and reared in raceways or ponds or pens or recirculation systems with good water quality. Good water quality is essential to proper growth and survival of farmed fish. Good water quality is maintained using best management practices, reducing the use of chemicals in aquaculture.
Best management practices include stocking disease free seeds and fingerlings, providing aeration and dissolved oxygen, feeding nutritionally complete feeds and minimizing stress on the fish. Chemicals are highly restricted in the fish farming industry and there are only six drugs approved by the FDA for use in food fish aquaculture. Farm-raised fish sent to markets are chemical free and some can qualify for organic food status.
Farm-raised fish are fed a high quality feed with corn and soybean and fishmeal protein along with vitamins and minerals for a balanced and complete diet. Farmed fish convert this feed to muscle protein at the rate of 1.5 to 2 pounds of fish feed per pound of weight gain. Wild fish feed on a diet of other fish and marine organisms. Wild fish convert that diet to muscle protein at the rate of 10-12 pounds of food per pound of weight gain.
The fish waste in ponds and recirculation aquaculture systems is converted to non-toxic compounds through the natural process of nitrification by benign bacterial action. The water is reused to conserve our ground water resources. Wild fish grow in waters that contain chemicals from rainwater runoff, sewage treatment plants, yards and fields and the waste of other marine organisms. Rainwater runoff often contains the waste and fecal coliform bacteria of humans or other warm-blooded animals. Almost every other kind of food we eat is farm-raised.
All vegetables and meats sold in stores and in restaurants are grown on farms; even “wild rice” is farmed. It’s against the law to sell most wild-harvested animals except for some fish and seafood. U.S. seafood consumption is 15 pounds per capita per year. That demand exceeds the capacity of the domestic fishery necessitating the importation of seafood. In 2012 the U.S. national trade deficit for fish and seafood was $10.96 billion, which is 1.5% of the entire U.S. trade deficit.
Over 80% of seafood consumed in the U.S. and Carteret County is imported. Of all imported seafood, approximately 50% is farm-raised. Most of the fish and seafood consumed in the U.S. is farm-raised.
Following is a list of farm-raised fish and seafood: tilapia (100% farm-raised), catfish (100% farm-raised), salmon (60% farm-raised), shrimp (90% farm-raised), clams, scallops, oysters, mussels, abalone, red drum, hybrid striped bass, rainbow trout, crawfish, yellow perch, largemouth bass and bluegill bream, flounder, black sea bass, queen conch, eel, cobia, carp, barramundi, soft-shell blue crabs, sturgeon and caviar, sushi nori and other sea vegetables.
The above facts speak for themselves to address your comment about farm-raised fish that “they are not good,” and I would challenge you to conduct a blind taste test among consumers to answer your statement that “there is a distinct difference.”
Sources: Seafood Health Facts, NOAA Fishwatch, USDA Economic Research Service, About Seafood, U.S. Census Bureau, N.J. Department of Agriculture, USDA-National Institute Food/Agriculture, NOAA Office of Science and Technology.