Fish and fish products are recognized not only as some of the healthiest foods on the planet, but also as some of the least impactful on the natural environment. For these reasons, it is common practice for medical professionals to recommend that patients only eat wild-caught fish. Wild fish are believed to be more nutritious, while containing fewer toxins.
However, if everyone were to eat only wild fish, there would not be enough wild seafood to go around. In fact, demand continues to increase for fish and fish protein, which has resulted in widespread overfishing in wild fisheries. This dilemma would seem to pit individual health over environmental health, and wild-caught over farm-raised seafood.
Aquaculture, raising fish in tanks or enclosures, like fish ponds, is a responsible commercial enterprise that often gets unfairly vilified by environmentalists and corporate interests alike. Over the last three decades, aquaculture has been the main driver for increased seafood production. Worldwide, since 2016, aquaculture has been the main source of seafood available for human consumption. In 2018, this share was 52 percent, a figure that is expected to continue to increase in the long term.
While recommending wild-caught seafood consumption is a viable health practice, it can be cost-prohibitive economically for some consumers and resource-limited from an environmental perspective. It’s important to recognize that seafood is one of the best protein sources available to humankind and that consuming fish, whether wild-caught or farm raised, has health benefits that far outweigh the risks. A better philosophy, ecologically and economically, is to recommend eating seafood that is responsibly and sustainably harvested and grown.
Consumption of wild-caught fish is not always superior to consumption of aquaculture species from a human health perspective. It truly depends on the fishing and farming practices that are employed and regulated in each case.
Biologically sustainable fish stocks have declined from 90 percent in 1990 to 68.5 percent in 2017. It is important that we, as a society, start moving those numbers back toward more sustainable levels. Buying and eating sustainably harvested or grown seafood is one of the most powerful actions we can take to preserve our fisheries for our children and their children.Dr. Joshua Reilly, ND, of Wild Wellness Integrative Medicine, recommends that his patients utilize the resources at SeafoodWatch.org in order to select environmentally sustainable seafood, both wild-caught and farm-raised, for their plates. He is not in any way affiliated with SeafoodWatch.org. He values it as evidence-based resource for himself and his patients. Connect at 520-600-0211 or Wild-Wellness.com. See ad, page 17.