five non blondes

Fish Frenzie

Do you ever find yourself hovering over the fish counter at your favorite market or local grocery store trying to figure out which fish looks the freshest?  When is comes to fish, there are so many different terms out there such as “organic”, “fresh”, “natural”, “wild-caught” it’s hard to keep them straight or know what to believe.  Thanks to Trout Unlimited, below is a guideline to help you understand where exactly your fish, specifically salmon, is coming from.

Pacific Salmon – Born in freshwater on the pacific coast, migrates to sea to grow and mature, then returns to stream to spawn and die.

Atlantic Salmon– Majority of salmon farmed in Pacific waters are non-native Atlantic’s, causing major problems for wild Pacific salmon, steel head and ecosystems. Wild stocks native to Atlantic coast severely diminished and not fished commercially.

Steelhead  – Ocean going rainbow trout that return to freshwater to spawn.  Highly prized by recreational anglers.  Wild steelhead almost never marketed for food, which means steelhead in stores are most likely farmed.   

Wild Salmon – Spawned, hatched and lives naturally in the wild. Feeds on insects and other small water creatures.  Migrates to sea and returns to freshwater to spawn and die.

Hatchery Salmon – Born in captivity, raised on an artificial diet, and released as juveniles to be caught as adults.

Farmed  – Spends entire live in captivity; fed artificial diet and treated with chemicals. The meat is often grayish and dyed pink to be sold in stores. Contains unsafe levels of toxins and reduces health benefits.  Alaska has no salmon farms whereas other salmon territories do. (See Image below)

Wild-Caught – Caught in open waters, salt or fresh. Some mixed stocks of wild and hatchery.

Line-Caught – Caught and handled individually by a fishing boat trolling with lines & hooks.

Fresh– Usually a term to disguise “farmed”.  If it’s “fresh” Atlantic salmon from B.C., Chile, or anywhere in the pacific, it can only be farmed.

Frozen at Sea – Wild salmon caught, processed, and frozen while still at sea, typically w/in an hour of being caught so that it’s freshness and quality are preserved. Good option for getting wild-caught salmon off-season.

Organic” – Does not currently exist in the US because there are no standards or USDA certification process.  Imports may be labeled as “organic”, but it’s important to know that it might be from a country with weaker environmental/ health standards.

“Natural” – A way to market farmed salmon that has been raised with fewer chemicals.  Even though there may be fewer chemicals than “farmed” salmon, it is still often raised in open net pens, emitting water, disease, and escapees putting wild fish at risk.

I hope this list has informed you to make the best decision when selecting your fish for tomorrows dinner.  I know it’s helped me!

Kelsey – Vail, CO


1 Comment so far
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You forgot to add ‘ocean ranched’. This is different than ‘hatchery’. 1.5 billion salmon are released in Alaska each year to compete with wild salmon for food. These are extra salmon in the ocean only meant for commercial gain (is there enough food in the ocean for these extra fish, will these interbreed with naturally wild salmon?). Can we call these “half-farmed”?

It’s obvious you are not a fan of farmed fish, but you should really do a little more homework to learn more – it is the future after all. Farmed salmon are NOT dyed, they are not fed ‘chemicals’ and are just as healthy as wild salmon.

Comment by Penny Robertson

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