Wild caught fish versus farmed raised fish

Aug 25, 2020Fish

Difference between Wild caught fish versus farmed raised fish

Oceans and seas are huge, containing 95% of the water on earth, so your fish can come from many different places and environments. On top of that, fish can be raised in different ways.

With all these options it becomes difficult to know which fish is the best fish, which one is good for you, and which one is not. Furthemore, it is hard to understand the impact of fishing on the environment, the species, and the seafloor.

Nowadays we are eating a lot more fish and seafood, and more than a third of sea life has disappeared already. To give you an example, lobster used to be available in such vast quantities that it was considered junk food and given to prisoners.

It is important to know where your fish comes from and how it is raised to make sure you are eating something that is healthy and was fished in a way respectful to the environment.

Let’s talk about farm raised fish versus wild caught fish and the differences between these two ways of fishing.

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boxes of fresh catched wild fishes

Definitions

Wild caught fish: Wild caught fish lives in its natural environment in the sea, ocean, river, or lake, and comes and goes in that environment as it pleases.

Farm raised fish: Farmed fish is fish raised in freshwater or saltwater tanks or cages. Its environment, the quality of its water, and the food it is given are tightly controlled.

A controlled environment may sound reassuring, and that we can be sure that the fish is perfect. The problem is it’s not perfect. Since it’s industrial farming, it generates pollution and is, in the end, a money-making business. The way the fish is raised can become an afterthought to the margin they need to be profitable.

On the other hand, wild caught fish has what it needs to grow, and lives free so there is a good chance that, in terms of quality and taste, the fish is better. However, the way it is caught can also cause pollution and damage the seafloor depending on the techniques used.

Catching methods and feeding processes of farm raised versus wild caught fish

Wild caught fish

To catch wild caught fish, fishermen use nets, fishing poles and lines, hooks, traps and pots, bottom trawls, dredges, or purse seining. As you can probably imagine, some of those tools can be bad for the fishes’ environment and the seafloor.

To feed, wild fish will eat what they find in their living environment, which will be mostly shrimp, other fishes, seaweeds, and krill. Depending on what food is available in the area they live, the same fish could be very different in terms of taste or quality. For example, Atlantic salmon will be very different from Pacific salmon since they don’t eat the same thing.

This is where it gets interesting. Along with differences from their environments, wild caught fish will also have a good chance to be better quality than farm fish since they grew naturally, with nothing speeding up their growing process.

Fisherman preparing its fishing net to go get wild fishes

Farm raised fish

To catch farm raised fish, people use nets or fishing poles to grab them out and take them by boats to the factory where they will be processed. This fishing method is pretty easy since the fish can’t go anywhere. There is no downside since the way the fish are caught doesn’t really impact the environment at all.

Farmed fish are fed by humans using small pellets. They consist of a more or less significant part of fish meal, oils, and vegetable ingredients. Here is the big part of the “know what you eat” rule. The products used to feed them will vary from farm to farm. Some farms will have top, high-end, organic food products which will make the fish almost as good as wild. On the other hand, some farms will care less about the quality of the fish than about the quantity they can sell, so they won’t spend the money to feed their fish high-quality products. This means the fish is not very healthy for you at the end of the chain.

When buying farm raised fish you will have to research how the fish has been raised to make sure you are not poisoning yourself.

Health and environment of farm raised versus wild caught fish

Health

The impact on your health and the health of the fish you eat depends on the way they are raised. There is more of a chance that the fish will not be great for your health if it is farm raised for two reasons.

The first reason is that the food product that’s given to the fish may not be the best quality. Some industrial farms will use cost-efficient products to feed their fish. Thus, when you choose a farm raised fish, make sure to know how the fish has been raised to avoid nasty surprises later on.

The second reason is that on industrial fish farms there are a lot of fish in a small area (in tanks or cages). So there is more of a chance for them to get diseases from living in tiny spaces. The fish are often given antibiotics and other chemicals to make sure they stay outwardly healthy and alive during the process of growing. Those products will end up on your plate.

With wild fish it is the area where they live that you will have to check. Some areas in the world are more polluted than others, and the impact of that is usually important.

So when it comes to buying, make sure to check the origin of your fish and how they grew. Not every farm uses preservatives, antibiotics, and bad food. Finding out about the quality of the product that ends up on your plate is as simple as researching where it was raised.

Wild fishes freshly caught.

Environment

As mentioned a lot in this article, fishing can have a big impact on the environment. We are emptying our waters of fish due to overfishing and fishing techniques that are harmful.
The way fishing is done is hard to control it since there are multiple countries, multiple areas of fishing, and different regulations.

As a fish importer, we are part of this chain and we are working with sustainable providers that fish with the best techniques to respect the species and environment. No overfishing, sustainable fishing, and seafloor respect are all crucial aspects of how we conduct business and with whom we conduct it.

You can help us preserve the good way of fishing by caring about the source of the fish you are having for dinner. If you look for and buy the right kind of fish, it can have a big impact on the environment. We will give you the information to ensure you choose the right ones.

Labels and certifications

After everything we wrote, you probably still wonder how you know which is the right kind of fish. This is where the labels and certifications come in.
Since it’s hard to make every country and every fishing company respect the environment and the fish quality, some labels and certifications have been created to help customers make the right choice.

Look for fish providers with certifications from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), the Monterey Bay aquarium’s seafood watch program, and the great seafood information bank Fishchoice.

MSC partnership is a good int to know about wild shrimp and farm raised shrimp

With those three tools you can find a lot of information about what you eat. If you are in a supermarket, at a restaurant, or buying online, you just have to make sure the product you are going to buy is endorsed by one, two, or all of them. Rest assured if you are buying from us, you are buying sustainably sourced, wild caught fish of the best quality.

If you would like to read more information about those certifications, you can check out our about page where we explain what they do.

Conclusion

Hopefully now you understand the differences between wild caught and farm raised fish. On top of that, to make sure the food you get is the best possible, you now have the right tools to find out.

To sum up, before you buy takes these steps:

1/ Check where the fish comes from
2/ Check how it is raised
3/ Check the certification of the product
4/ Buy it if all quality conditions are met

At mmmediterranean we carefully select our providers. We want the highest quality Mediterranean products for our customers, which is reflected in our prices and in the certifications of the products we import. We work only with wild caught foods and sustainable products to make sure we will be able to have fish in the sea forever.

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