According to an article written for the Examiner.com fish that comes from China, Vietnam and Thailand is farmed in some of the most deplorable and unsanitary conditions. In Vietnam the fish are kept in houses built along the Mekong River — a river also used for the local’s sewage, laundry and dirty dishes. This river is one of the largest supplies of fish to North America, Europe and Japan but it’s also one of the dirtiest with a combination of cement plant and salt factory runoff, industrial pollutants and sewage draining directly into the fish ponds.
The Following video provides a look into how fish are farmed on the Mekong River.
In China (where about 70% of fish farming takes place) chicken coops are built directly over catfish farms so that the chicken manure can feed the fish below. The United State’s standards for quality are lacking for food and livestock raised here and there are few to no standards on imported foods. In China illegal veterinary drugs and pesticides are mixed in with the fish feed which helps to keep the fish alive but also leaves behind poisonous carcinogens (cancer causing substance or chemical). Wal-Mart is one of China’s biggest customers when it comes to fish imports.
Over 40% of the fish consumed nowadays comes from aquaculture, or fish farming. These fish are often crammed so tightly together that the weight of the fish on the top crushes the ones at the bottom. To fatten up the fish quickly they are often fed other smaller ocean life and it takes an astounding 10 lbs. of this smaller ocean life to create 2.2 lbs. of high protein fishmeal. This also only contributes to the depletion of our oceans.
PCBs and Mercury
Farmed and Dangerous breaks down the nutritional content of Wild vs. Farmed Salmon and it points out that Wild Salmon have 5 parts/billion of PCBs vs Farmed Salmon’s 27 parts/billion. Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCBs) are chemicals that have been associated with the development of cancer in humans and animals and were banned in 1979. As this website points out all of the concentrations of harmful chemicals that were tested in the fish were found to be ten times higher in those that were farmed. Most of these contaminants were also classified as being “possible” human carcinogens.
Crab, oyster, grouper, halibut, flounder, eel, bass, carp, snapper and shell-fish, to name a few, are all bottom feeders. This means that they skim the bottom of the ocean and eat plants and other smaller bottom feeders. A common indicator that a species of fish is a bottom feeder is the location of both eyes on the same side of their head. These sea creatures are not picky eaters and consume most of the matter that has sunk to the bottom of the ocean floor, namely heavy metals like mercury and lead.
Numerous studies have indicated that pregnant women, those who wish to become pregnant and small children have the most risk when it comes to consuming the mercury in fish. The American Pregnancy Association advises these groups to remove the fish containing the highest levels of mercury from their diet entirely including but not limited to tuna, marlin, swordfish and mackerel.
The trouble with mercury is that lower levels are now considered to be more dangerous than once thought. A recent article in the Portland Press Herald discusses how mercury “affects the immune system, alters genetic and enzyme systems, and damages the nervous system including coordination and the sense of touch, taste and sight.”
The scariest aspect of mercury is that of biomagnification. When a larger fish consumes a smaller fish the mercury in the smaller fish grows exponentially inside the fatty tissue of the larger fish. This process persists until a Bluefin tuna weighing in at 400 lbs. is consumed by a human and the mercury levels are extremely dangerous.
Dolphin Free Tuna?
The Eurocbc states that roughly 7 million dolphins have been killed by the use of seine nets. These nets work to herd tuna together by forcing them to the surface so that they can be more easily corralled. Dolphins get caught in these nets as they often travel with schools of tuna. There have been bans on certain methods of fishing that put dolphins at risk hence the “Dolphin Safe” label placed on various types of seafood. The trouble is that Mexico, Venezuela, Colombia and Vanautu do not adhere to these regulations and much of the fish imported to the United States still comes from these countries.
Along with dolphins nearly 1,000 marine mammals are killed by commercial fishing everyday. Sea turtles (which are protected by the Endangered Species Act) and at risk porpoises are caught in the fishing nets. There are guidelines that require fishermen to free the endangered sea turtles when they are trapped in the nets but turtles are air-breathing reptiles and often drown long before measures are taken to free them.
I will persist to avoid going into great depth concerning the death and suffering of animals as I’d like to focus on the matter at hand– your health. However, to fully understand the impact that the consumption of meat has for the individual we must consider the environment as well. It’s easy enough to assume that your enjoyment of sushi containing tuna does not have larger repercussions but it does. When you endorse the capture of sea creatures for consumption you encourage the slaughter of more than 300,000 other marine animals every year.