Farm-Raised Fish vs. Wild Caught: Which is Better?
Fri, September 30, 2022

Farm-Raised Fish vs. Wild Caught: Which is Better?

Fish is a source of low-fat high-quality protein that keeps the muscle strong and the body lean. It does not only impact the waistline but lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, autoimmune disease, and Alzheimer’s disease / Photo by: Loubens77 via Pixabay


Fish is a source of low-fat high-quality protein that keeps the muscle strong and the body lean. It does not only impact the waistline but lowers the risk of heart disease, stroke, autoimmune disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. These are only some of the benefits that a person gets from eating fish, but when it comes to such superfood from the sea, there is conflicting information as to whether farm-raised fish or wild-caught is better.

Farming and Fishing Methods

According to Chowhound, an online resource for food enthusiasts, the choice is not simple as several factors have to be considered. Both farm-raised and wild-caught fishes have their pros and cons that depend on the farming and fishing methods adopted as well as the fishes’ sources of origin.

Resources, such as the Seafood Watch Program of The Monterey Bay Aquarium and nonprofit Marine Stewardship Council that sets a standard for sustainable fishing, are designed to assist consumers in making informed choices. Fish counters at the supermarket or even the restaurant menu also provide information on how the seafood was caught. The words “responsibly farmed” are a hint. There are also apps that can be used when shopping to understand the differences between wild and farmed seafood that will make not just your conscience and body smile but also the environment.

Significance of Knowing

Often, we hear environmental or animal welfare issues that focus only on pollution or industrial farming. However, the world’s oceans are also facing similar issues, like overfishing. Society is eating more seafood today than in the past, Chowhound added. The world’s fishermen are now facing to fill people’s demand. Fish species are now being caught way faster than their ability to reproduce in the ocean, leading to shortages.

In Norway, for instance, the price of fresh salmon soared to 77 kroner per kilo. This is the highest record the country has reached so far. This means lower fish stocks and increased demand. Even the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations published in 2018 that the global fish production is expected to continue increasing in the following years as the global aquaculture harvests during that year accounted for around 49%. The Seafood Watch Program has also warned the public that although it may appear from above the ocean that there is plenty of fish in the sea, a dive beneath will tell a different story.

People’s consumption habits, lack of effective management, and overfishing are only some of the factors that contribute to the decline of the wild fish population. Consumers can make a difference by simply knowing whether the fish is farmed or caught in environmentally-friendly or sustainable ways.

Consumers' Role in Making a Sustainable Ecosystem

Buying responsibly means paying attention to how the seafood is caught. An example of the responsible wild fishing method is using line and pole, which means catching only one fish at a time. Some commercial fishermen still use this method. Another method is the use of pots and traps that don’t catch unintended species. Third, the use of jigs and handlines is also considered a responsible wild fishing method because it utilizes an individual bait. It reduces bycatch (unintentional catch). Spiny lobster, troll- or pole-caught albacore tuna, and Alaskan salmon are good choices for wild fish.

Meanwhile, responsible farmed fishing methods include suspended cultures. It is a system that is often used for catching shellfish that don’t move around or swim, like mussels and oysters. This method leaves minimal waste in the ocean. Another responsible farmed fishing method is the use of a recirculating system. In this farming method, the water from the tank system is treated and recycled for other fish species. The use of a bag or rack is also a responsible farming method because it does not deplete the wild species. Blue mussels, arctic char, tilapia, trout, and catfish are good choices of farmed fish.

Global Production of Seafood and Fish: Statistics

Our World in Data, a scientific online publication that focuses on large global problems, shares that the world’s production of seafood and fish has already quadrupled in the last 50 years. An average person also eats almost twice as much fish and seafood today than 50 years ago. This increases the pressure on seafood stocks in different countries. In the 1960s, the world’s aquaculture production was at 2.03 million tonnes per year and the captured fisheries were at 34.79 per year. In 1990, the number now increased to 16.86 million tonnes per year for aquaculture and 86.02 million tonnes for capture fisheries. In 2015, the seafood production rose to 106.00 million tones aquaculture and 93.74 million tonnes capture fishers.

The data was provided by FAO. Aquaculture includes the farming of aquatic organisms, including mollusks, fish, aquatic plants, and crustaceans. On the other hand, capture fishery is the volume of wild fish that landed for all recreational, commercial, subsistence, and industrial purposes. Overall data shows that aquaculture production has already surpassed wild catch.

Nutritional Differences

Some people believe that wild-caught fishes have more nutritional value compared to farm-raised fish because the wild-caught fishes have lived in their natural environment. But this does not mean that they are not prone to illness and disease because they are not pumped with antibiotics too to promote their growth and keep them healthy. Similarly, there are fish farms that use practices that are harmful to both the environment and the consumers.

How nutritious the fish will be still depends on its diet, emphasizes Los Angeles-based catering services company Eco Caters. Depending on the fish farm, the fish’s diet could be animal byproducts (animal waste) or premium fish food. Farm-raised fish may also mean high omega-3 content and wild fish have less saturated fat. Both are helpful to consumers. It will also depend on the breeds of the fish.

So, the answer to which among the two options is better remains in the hands of the fisheries and the fishermen from whom the consumers are purchasing their fish. This is where the significance of checking the sources comes in. Avoid farms that use hatcheries or enclosed ponds, if possible.