Beyond the pale and not in the pink: salmon’s sordid saga

Lifestyle

Beyond the pale and not in the pink: salmon’s sordid saga

The ecologically disastrous truth about salmon farming means you may never eat the fish again

Andrea Burgener

The indentured servants of the early European settlers in the US had a clause in their contracts stipulating that salmon wouldn’t be served to them more than once a week. The fish was as ubiquitous and cheap as tinned sardines are now. Hard to believe from a modern perspective. Most of us can’t remember a time when salmon wasn’t another word for luxury, and it’s an attitude we’ve held onto even though the fish is now readily available.

The Norwegians were among the first big-time salmon farmers in the 1960s. They were scarily good at it. Their fisheries embarked on Project Salmon in Japan in the 1980s, aimed at marketing the fish as a viable sushi and sashimi option. The Japanese were hugely resistant as the wild salmon in their own waters held dangerous parasites, unsafe to be eaten raw. But salmon from other waters seemed to be OK, and once the Japanese had been won over, the globe was next.

Quantity rarely equals quality. Much salmon available today is a flaccid and tasteless shadow of its wild relatives – and it’s hardly surprising. Often, the fish live too close together and are fed an unnatural diet, frequently including antibiotics. Many are riddled with deformities, sea lice and wounds that don’t heal...

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