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Does Farmed Atlantic Salmon Pose Any Heath Risks?

Aug 15, 2008
You are probably aware of the many benefits of salmon, but when you're at the local fish market are you aware of the differences between Atlantic and Pacific salmon? Other than the obvious geographical separation, there is one fundamental difference between the fish.

The salmon is renowned for it's tragic life cycle. The fish are born in freshwater but then migrate to the open saltwater of the oceans to live their adult lives. When salmon are ready to spawn, they return to familiar freshwater hardwired by imprint or a keen sense of smell. We have all seen salmon swim valiantly upstream only to spawn and then die. But do they really? The Pacific salmon does meet its unfortunate demise but the Atlantic salmon does indeed live to spawn another day.

The question to ask now is whether or not there's a nutritional difference between Pacific and Atlantic salmon. The answer is yes but perhaps it is more a function of mankind's interference or intervention depending on your point of view.

Because salmon is such a popular fish, commercial fish farms have been set up to meet the demand of the public. It has been estimated that greater than 99% of Atlantic salmon sold in world wide fish markets are farmed versus greater than 80% of Pacific salmon are wild-caught.

The free swimming Pacific salmon are found to have less contaminants and dioxins than its farmed Atlantic counterpart. However, Atlantic salmon do contain more essential omega-3 fatty acids. The health benefits of this fatty acid include cardiovascular and neurological benefits among many others.

So, do the benefits of omega-3 outweigh the risks of eating chemically contaminated salmon stock? Given consumption in moderation, studies show that the net benefits of salmon's nutritional value exceed the pollution issues. However, always ask where the salmon comes from when purchasing to follow these guidelines. Farmed fish from eastern Canada, Norway and Scotland should not be consumed more than three times a year. Likewise, farmed fish from Maine, western Canada, Washington State and Chile should not be consumed more than six times a year. If your palate swings toward wild salmon, then you can enjoy wild chum salmon once per week; pink, sockeye and coho bimonthly, and chinook once a month.

As with everything in life, too much of a good thing can cause you harm. To enjoy the health benefits of eating salmon, one has to practice moderation.
About the Author
Enjoy wild Pacific salmon when you go Southeast Alaska fishing. Juneau Alaska fishing offers a truly unique experience of fishing and scenery.
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