Concentrated waste from offshore fish pens that pollute surrounding waters and the spread of diseases to wild populations are a few reasons why environmental watchdogs continue to give farmed salmon the thumbs down.
The Catch: Not all farmed fish is bad. Tilapia, catfish, arctic char and barramundi are greener farmed fish than salmon because they are often raised in a manner that doesn't sully surrounding waterways.
Smart Move: Salmon is just too healthy to give up. If the budget allows, select wild Alaskan salmon over farm-raised Atlantic salmon.
Wild Alaskan salmon is low in contaminants, much more flavorful and certified as sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.
Is your neighborhood light on fishmongers? Try FishEx (fishex.com) for home-delivered Alaskan king salmon that are bursting with flavor and omega-3s. Also, canned salmon is often sourced from wild Pacific salmon making it a wise, budget choice.
Fish Tale: If salmon is labeled organic, it's healthy.
Fish Fact: Some salmon are sold as "organic," defined by wholesalers and restaurants as farmed salmon, raised without antibiotics in a cleaner environment.
The truth is that fish can't be certified organic in the United States.
The Catch: The USDA rules governing organic foods don't cover fish. So what gives? Most fish that are labeled organic are certified by other countries or third-party agencies, and those groups use varying criteria that may not meet rigorous American government standards.
Smart Move: With no USDA regulation standards in place for organic salmon, stick with wild Alaskan fillets for now.
Fish Tale: Shrimp are generally a safe option, but not necessarily as nutritious as fish.
Fish Fact: Shrimp are nutritional powerhouses full of low-calorie protein and vitamin D, but not all varieties are equally safe or environmentally friendly.
The Catch: Most of the shrimp we consume is imported from countries in Latin America and Southeast Asia, where shrimp farms are doused with chemicals and were created by clearing huge acres of coastal mangrove forests, vital ecosystems. Plus, according to the Environmental Defense Fund, wild shrimp fishing operations abroad often take in large amounts of unwanted bycatch, including endangered sea turtles.
Smart Move: With stricter and improving environmental standards, North American farmed and wild shrimp are your best choice. Consider supporting Texas-based Harlingen Shrimp Farms (harlingenshrimp.com); its use of wetlands to recycle pond water and commitment to improve discharge water quality earned it the Environmental Stewardship Award.
Fish and PregnancyA study in The Journal of the American Medical Association reported that up to one in 10 American women of childbearing age have mercury levels that could put their babies at risk. Levels were most worrisome in women with the highest fish intakes.
Mercury is especially dangerous to unborn babies' and young children's developing brains and nervous systems. Harvard researchers recently determined that mercury exposure from seafood during pregnancy reduces cognitive scores in children at age 3.