The tale of the Atlantic Salmon

We’ve recently looked at the situation with the pacific salmon and how it is affected by the Fukushima disaster.

A natural question is – what’s a salmon eater to do? As an alternative, some have switched to the Atlantic salmon without giving it a second thought.

Here is what we know about the Atlantic Salmon.

Population of the Atlantic Salmon is Low due to overfishing and Commercial fishing for Atlantic salmon is prohibited (From:

The Northeast Fishery Management council developed a Fishery Management Plan for Atlantic Salmon in 1988. This authority extends over all Atlantic salmon of U.S. origin, and prohibits “possession” of Atlantic salmon, either as the intended catch of commercial fishing, or as the indirect (by catch) result of fishing for other fish. Commercial fishing of wild Atlantic salmon is now prohibited in U.S. federal waters, although recreational fishing is allowed. Commercial fishing of wild Atlantic salmon still occurs off the coast of Greenland, where adult Atlantic salmon feed. (From:

Since there is no commercial Atlantic Salmon fishing in US and Canada, any Atlantic Salmon you may see in the stores is farm raised (unless it is from Greenland).

When it comes to the farmed fish, biggest concern is the contamination.

Here is an abstract of the study published via in May 2005 in “Environmental Health Perspectives”, monthly peer-reviewed journal by the U.S. National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, the research team reported that the levels of chlorinated pesticides, dioxins, PCBs and other contaminants are up to 10 times greater in farm-raised salmon than in wild Pacific salmon, and that salmon farmed in Europe are more contaminated than salmon from South and North American farms.

We reported recently that several organic contaminants occurred at elevated concentrations in farmed Atlantic salmon compared with concentrations of the same contaminants in wild Pacific salmon [Hites et al. Science 303:226–229 (2004)]. We also found that polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), toxaphene, dieldrin, dioxins, and polybrominated diphenyl ethers occurred at higher concentrations in European farm-raised salmon than in farmed salmon from North and South America. Health risks (based on a quantitative cancer risk assessment) associated with consumption of farmed salmon contaminated with PCBs, toxaphene, and dieldrin were higher than risks associated with exposure to the same contaminants in wild salmon. Here we present information on cancer and noncancer health risks of exposure to dioxins in farmed and wild salmon. The analysis is based on a tolerable intake level for dioxin-like compounds established by the World Health Organization and on risk estimates for human exposure to dioxins developed by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Consumption of farmed salmon at relatively low frequencies results in elevated exposure to dioxins and dioxin-like compounds with commensurate elevation in estimates of health risk.

Here is another abstract of the study published by “Environmental Health Perspectives” via the which looks into the chemical contamination of the farmed salmon.

Farmed Atlantic salmon from Maine and eastern Canada, wild Alaskan Chinook salmon, and organically farmed Norwegian salmon samples were analyzed for the presence of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), dioxin-like PCBs, polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins (PCDDs), dibenzo-p-furans (PCDFs), and chlorinated pesticides. PCDD and PCDF congeners were not detected in > 80% of the samples analyzed. Total PCB concentrations (7.2-29.5 ng/g, wet weight, ww) in the farmed salmon were significantly higher than those in the wild Alaskan Chinook samples (3.9-8.1 ng/g, ww). Concentrations of PCBs, WHO PCB TEQs, and chlorinated pesticides varied significantly by region. PCB and WHO PCB TEQ concentrations in farmed salmon from eastern Canada were lower than those reported in samples collected two years earlier, possibly reflecting recent industry efforts to lower contaminant concentrations in feed. Organically farmed Norwegian salmon had the highest concentrations of PCBs (mean: 27 ng/g, ww) and WHO PCB TEQs (2.85 pg/g,ww); their TEQ values are in the higher range of those reported in farmed salmon from around the world. Removal of skin from salmon fillets resulted in highly variable reductions of lipids and contaminants, and in some skin-off samples, contaminant levels were higher, suggesting that skin removal does not protect the consumer from health risks associated with consumption of farmed salmon.

Note #1: Another important concern with the farmed salmon, especially for the pregnant or breastfeeding women, is mercury contamination. NYC Dept of Health lists salmon as a very-low-mercury fish UNLESS it is farmed (From:

Note #2: Substantial amount of the general seafood in imported into the US. As of 2013, China is the top world producer of the farmed fish. During targeted sampling, from October 2006 through May 2007, FDA repeatedly found that farm-raised seafood from China was contaminated with antimicrobial agents that are not approved for use in the United States. More specifically, the antimicrobials nitrofuran, malachite green, gentian violet, and flouroquinolones, were detected. Nitrofurans, malachite green, and gentian violet have been shown to cause cancer with long-term exposure in lab animals. The use of fluoroquinolones in food animals may increase antibiotic resistance, making it harder for this class of drugs to fight certain infections in people. (From:



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