If you are a fan of seafood, there’s a good chance that you’ve noticed a major push in recent years toward marketing various seafood products as “wild caught” or “farm raised.” You’ve probably also noticed that wild-caught filets, shrimp, prawns, and scallops tend to sell for a slightly higher price than farmed varieties. So what’s the deal? Is wild-caught really worth more money?
The short answer is yes, but in order to understand why, it is important unpack some of the history behind the rise of fish farms, and why people have taken to raising fish in captivity in the first place.
While fish farms have been subject to significant criticism in recent years, the original impulse behind farming fish was a noble one. With fishery stocks becoming seriously depleted worldwide in the second half of the twentieth century, fish farming was viewed as being a more environmentally sustainable alternative.
Fish farming started in northern Europe, but it quickly became popular in North America as well, to the extent that most Atlantic salmon on the market is now sourced from fish farms. Unfortunately, as more data has emerged about the quality of farmed fish and the impact fish farms have on the environment, it has become clear that these operations hardly represent the eco-friendly alternative they purport themselves to be.
This fact, coupled with the ubiquity of farmed fish in the North American market, has led many producers to champion the health and taste benefits of wild caught fish over less nutritious farm-raised alternatives.
For those who are concerned not only with the taste and quality of the fish they eat, but also with its environmental footprint, this has raised an apparent quandary: is it possible to find wild caught fish that has also been sustainably sourced, or does eating wild caught inevitably implicate you in an environmentally deleterious food chain?
Fortunately, in response to the threat of depleted stocks, some fisheries are fighting back by adopting more sustainable practices that don’t rely on fish farming. And a growing number of companies are carving out a niche for themselves by connecting customers to ocean friendly seafood products that have been harvested ethically and in sustainable ways.
What this means for the consumer is that when it comes to buying high quality seafood, it isn’t as simple as wild caught vs. farm raised. It is also important to find out whether wild caught fish is being sourced from producers who understand the importance of sustainable fisheries for the future of the planet.
This isn’t always easy, especially when shopping at a supermarket, but the good news is that there are plenty of ways to source sustainable seafood online, and with a little bit of research you should be able to find out the best places to find delicious wild caught fish in your province or state.
The bottom line is that eating ethically doesn’t mean foregoing seafood; by supporting sustainable fishery practices, you can help ensure that we can all enjoy the fruit of the oceans for generations to come.