Tuesday, December 2, 2008

A Response to Mark Bittman and the New York Times

Back on November 15, Mark Bittman the New York Times published a piece by Mark Bittman entitled, "A Seafood Snob Ponders the Future of Fish." Mary Ellen Walling of the BC Salmon Farmers Association penned the following response:
As Mark Bittman "ponders the future of fish" he raises some important points about the need to protect wild fish. For example, he points out that most commercial fisheries are not well managed. The result?

The roughly 85 million tons a year of commercially caught fish has brought many species to the point of collapse and is insufficient to meet growing global demand.

It therefore seems incongruous to be proposing that we should eat more wild fish. Surely we should be eating sustainably farmed fish as a way to meet increasing demand without putting undue pressure on wild stocks.

Mr. Bittman takes issue with what he calls the "industrial farming" of fish but for those concerned about the protection of wild fish and the environment a few more facts about salmon farming are in order.

First of all, the health benefits of eating wild and farmed salmon are exactly the same. That's good news for consumers. Farmed salmon means there is a year-round supply of fresh fish and the price is typically less that one would pay for wild fish in season. That's more good news for the consumer.

Farmers recognize the marine environment is their most valuable asset and must meet stringent regulatory requirements for the siting and operating of ocean farms. Farm stock are carefully monitored to ensure fish health and should antibiotics be required to treat illness they can only be used under a veterinarian's prescription: over the life of a farmed raised salmon more than 97 per cent of its feed is free of any type of antibiotic. That's good for both the environment and consumers.

Millions of people enjoy the mild flavor of Atlantic salmon but for Mr.Bittman and others who prefer a fuller flavor they might try sockeye, the species raised on ocean ranches in Alaska and farmed elsewhere, or Chinook another native Pacific species farmed in British Columbia.

There are many different choices consumers can make but if you are concerned about protecting the wild fishery the best thing you can do right now is eat sustainably farmed fish.
Mary Ellen also tells me that Mr. Bittman has an open invitation to visit any of the facilities in British Columbia to see for himself how the facilities operate.

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