As overfishing continues to plague oceans, lakes and rivers around the world, the resulting fish farm aquaculture industry is devastating those already fragile ecosystems and may also be producing considerably less healthy animals than wild caught fish, offering fewer dietary benefits for humans.
In a NY Times article published earlier this week, Elisabeth Rosenthal digs into the tilapia industry—a fish few people had heard of ten years ago. Rosenthal writes that just last year, “more than 52 million pounds of fresh tilapia were exported to the United States, mostly from Latin America, as well as 422 million more pounds of frozen tilapia, both whole and fillet, nearly all from China, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.” Only 5 percent of tilapia consumed in America is raised in this country.
Environmentalists such as Captain Paul Watson, founder of Sea Shepherd and star of Animal Planet’s Whale Wars, argue that most of the self regulated “eco” or “sustainable” fishing and aquaculture farming, like those commonly used for raising tilapia, are heavily destructive, damaging vital ecosystems by using practices the U.S. would not allow within its borders. The extent of the damage to Lake Apoyo in Nicaragua from one relatively small cage had the effects of 3.7 million chickens defecating in the water, according to Rosenthal’s article.
When fish is recommended in place of chicken, pork or beef, it’s often for the Omega-3 fatty acids. But in comparison to other fish, tilapia contains significantly lower levels. Salmon contains more than 10 times the Omega-3 fat content than tilapia. This occurs largely due to the unnatural diet fed to the tilapia—corn and soy, which also happen to be two of the most common genetically modified seeds.
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Photo: Ivan Walsh