The Wild Salmon Debate

By David Dobbs, March/April 2008

A fresh look at farmed vs. wild.

"This is such a thorough, informative, and valuable--not to mention very well-written--article. Thank you! It is just what I was looking for to get the facts on this matter. Thank you and bless you, David Dobbs. "

The Healthy Difference: What Wild Salmon Eat

The eggs hatch three to five months later. The fry, louse-sized at first, stick close to the bottom of the river. Their mottled stripes make them all but invisible from above, so that you can look right at them (as I have many times) and not see them till you’ve spooked them. Leisurely, the fry gobble larvae and small crustacea on the bottom; sometimes they flash to the surface, cobra-quick, to grab a bug or an emerging nymph. Most are themselves gobbled.

Yours is one of the few—1 in 500, 1 in 1,000—that makes it. He lives a year or two, grows large enough to move downstream. After a couple weeks he reaches a brackish estuary where he remains for a few days acclimating to saltwater. Then he enters the North Pacific. He eats with an open mind—other fish, mollusks, and lots and lots of krill and other planktonic crustacea that have feasted on red algae. This diet turns his flesh pink and rich in omega-3 fatty acids. When he is six or seven years old—as young as two in some species—he will need this fat to fuel his swim upriver to spawn. Once he enters the river he will not eat, and he may have to swim for days. Some fish swim only a dozen or a few score miles to spawn; others will swim hundreds. Alaska’s Copper River salmon, an exceptionally fatty and tasty fish, swims only 300 miles, but in doing so climbs 4,000 vertical feet. Your fish might swim 1,200 miles before it finds its spawning site, wiggles over its redd, and then dies. Or, it would have had it not been caught off the coast a few days ago, iced, boxed and shipped to the restaurant where it now greets you.

What Does it Mean for Your Health? What Farmed Salmon Eat and How They’re Raised »

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