Fish is great food, but for folks who don’t have a close understanding of the issues related to commercial fishing, deciding which fish to eat can be a little confusing.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program is the definitive source of information on which fish you can feel good about eating. In this article we’re going to focus on two particular types of fish that might seem similar but actually couldn’t be more different in terms of suitability for your belly.
Why You Should Eat Wild Salmon
The vast majority of wild salmon on the market in the US comes from Alaska. Wild Alaskan salmon comes from a well-managed, productive and consistent fishery that is by no means in decline. Wild Alaskan salmon is really healthy and it tastes great. Eating wild salmon also happens to support an important industry close to home.
Wild salmon are also an alternative in the market to farmed salmon, which create all sorts of problems, the worst of which is an explosion in sea lice populations that do damage to wild fish. Farmed salmon are not as good for you as wild salmon, and they definitely don’t taste as good.
Wild salmon is great food, largely harvested and processed in the US and it comes from a healthy, well-managed fishery. That’s why you should eat wild salmon.
Why You Shouldn’t Eat Wild Steelhead
Steelhead are also anadromous fish from the Pacific Northwest, and you can sometimes buy wild ones to eat. Plus, everyone says you should eat ‘local foods’, so when you see ‘Wild Hoh River Steelhead’ on the menu at a restaurant in Seattle, you should order it, right? Heck no!
Issues and politics around conservation of wild steelhead vary considerably depending on which fishery you’re talking about, so here we’re really going to have to speak generally to keep things short and sweet.
It’s pretty simple – most wild steelhead stocks in the Northwest are in shambles relative to historical levels, but since none of us were around in 1920 to actually see how many more steelhead our rivers supported we have no real basis for comparison, and even anglers tend to forget how productive our rivers should truly be.
Watersheds that once supported tens of thousands of wild steelhead now only see a few thousand, yet for political, economic and social reasons, harvest is still allowed even though these rivers are consistently not meeting their escapement goals. It’s a giant understatement to say that wild steelhead do not represent a sustainable harvest fishery. Some awfully strange nuances in regulations allow wild steelhead to be sold in certain situations, but we say you should not support that market. We need to focus on rebuilding stocks of wild steelhead for ourselves and for future generations – we just shouldn’t be eating them.
Buy the wild salmon instead!