The following letter was published in the Napa Valley Register on January 19th, 2013.
In a recent letter to the Napa Valley Register, Jerome Solomon, M.D., expressed his concern regarding the nutritional value of farm-raised salmon from British Columbia (“Reader weighs in on wild vs. farmed salmon debate,” Jan. 17).
While I can appreciate that he is entitled to his opinion, I’m concerned his negative opinion of farm-raised salmon is not based on today’s facts. His patients deserve up-to-date information about healthy eating.
To clarify for your readers, farm-raised salmon are generally Atlantic species (Salmo salar) and wild-caught salmon are mainly the five Pacific species (Oncorhynchus). Salmon are farmed in Europe, Australia, South America, Canada and the United States.
Mr. Solomon states that wild-caught salmon are high in healthy long-chain omega-3 fatty acids and low in mercury. He is correct, but this is also true of farm-raised Atlantic salmon. In fact, studies have shown Atlantic salmon are naturally higher in omega-3s and lower in mercury than their Pacific cousins.
Mr. Solomon’s concern about PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls) in farm-raised salmon may be born from a well-publicized study in 2004 that suggested farm-raised Atlantic salmon were higher in PCBs than some species of wild Pacific salmon.
The fact is, while salmon species vary slightly in levels of PCBs, all salmon (wild and farmed) contain less than 1 percent of acceptable PCB levels according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Since 2004, salmon farmers have continually improved the diet of farm-raised salmon to ensure these PCB levels have continued to drop. North American health agencies recommend the consumption of oily fish, such as salmon, twice weekly.
The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans set no consumption limits for farm-raised salmon, not even for pregnant and breast-feeding women, and rank it as one of the healthiest seafoods you can eat, with high omega-3 content and low mercury content.
The fact is: Both wild-caught and farm-raised salmon are very low in unwanted contaminants and very, very high in nutritional benefits.
Lastly, Mr. Solomon is not correct to state that the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Guide is “up to date.” Farm-raised salmon was last reviewed in 2003 — a decade ago.
The aquarium is now working to update this guide to reflect today’s business of salmon aquaculture. I would suggest that Mr. Solomon also update his files about the nutritional benefits of eating salmon — farmed and wild.
To learn more about how salmon are raised on farms in British Columbia, please see BCSalmonFacts.ca.
Ian Roberts is a salmon farmer from British Columbia, Canada.