Three Reasons to Avoid Farmed Salmon

Douglas Frantz (former managing editor of the LA Times and shared Pulitzer prizewinner) and his wife, Catherine Collins just published a blistering report on the farmed salmon industry in Time Magazine

Frantz and Collins called floating ocean-based salmon farms “an industrial imposter” constituting “a new threat” to human health and the health of our planet.  They go on to ask and answer three questions:

Is eating farmed salmon healthy?

Is farmed salmon sustainable?

Is farmed salmon raised naturally in ways that do not harm the environment? 

Their answer was “no” across the board. 

Note their article and conclusions were quickly disputed by the head of the National Aquaculture Association.  You can read the rebuttal here and decide for yourself. 

Frantz identified there are big problems to solve: 

The salmon industry depletes the ocean off of Latin America and Africa of small fish to feed salmon which are in turn sold to wealthy countries.   This practice removes a source of cheap nutrition for the local economies.

Many ocean farms use pesticides and antibiotics to improve yields. These products get into the surrounding ocean environment causing damage to the local ecosystems. Of course, we humans are also eating fish laden with these same chemicals.

The high density of fish in ocean pens releases large amounts of fish waste into the surrounding water further damaging the local surrounding ecosystems. 

Let’s look at each problem in turn.

Can the salmon industry find a substitute for marine sourced protein?

Salmon require essential macronutrients consisting of proteins made from amino acids called Digestible Proteins (DP) ,  a source of carbohydrates (Dietary Lipids (DL) and Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs). 

During the high growth alevin and juvenile phase,  growth rates are optimized with protein-rich diets whereas as the fish matures,  growth rates are optimized with DL rich diets. 

Hatchery feeds have been substituting plants/algae biomass or other emerging protein sources including bugs or bacteria or other non-marine animal products.   These feeds have the potential to meet the macronutrient requirements of salmon if carefully formulated.

For salmon to thrive, however,   requires careful attention to micronutrients which consist of trace metals, minerals, enzymes and other compounds.   For example, bioavailable selenium is an absolute must for salmon fecundity. Fortunately yeast derived selenium supplements can be economically added to compensate for selenium deficiencies in non-marine biomass sources of macronutrients.  

There is one micronutrient, however, that is Frantz is missing. 

Marine animals present salmon with nature’s most powerful mitochondrial targeting antioxidant, astaxanthin. Astaxanthin plays a critical role protecting the animal from oxygen radicals generated by cellular respiration. This same compound is also responsible for the red color of salmon flesh.   For optimal mitochondrial function,  salmon diets must include a specific form of astaxanthin, the 3S, 3’S stereoisomer that has been di-esterified. This compound promotes mitochondria energy production but also protects other antioxidants from being oxidized by cellular respiration. Fish lacking astaxanthin suffer from lower growth rates, higher deformities and compromised immune system function requiring the use of vaccines, pesticides,  and antibiotics to try to keep the fish alive long enough to harvest.

Unlike selenium,  up to recently there are no known economic sources of di-esterified 3S, 3’S astaxanthin other than fish meal.

It gets worse.

The salmon industry adds toxic forms of astaxanthin into the feeds as an orange dye further compromising fish and compromising the health of  humans that are fed this toxin.

Sustainable Nutrition has solved this problem by a patented processing technology that turns the astaxanthin in Hp into a highly bioavailable lipid rich nano-emulsion mimicking the way salmon get astaxanthin from marine animals.  Fish raised on our dietary protocol grow faster, have virtually no deformities or cancers and exhibit a strong immune response to various pathogens.

Can we eliminate ocean pen salmon farming?   

Frantz pointed out that land-based recirculating aquatics systems (RAS) salmon farms can potentially replace ocean pen farming.

We have some very strong feelings about the viability of gen 1 RAS designs.

The high fish density in fish farming coupled with compromised immune function from the lack of astaxanthin and other micronutrients create the ideal “super spreading” conditions that are favorable for pathogens to quickly spread.

Land based operators do have one key advantage,  we can using filters to keep parasites like sea lice from infecting our fish.  That said,  other pathogens including bacteria and viruses can still get through.

And there is the rub.

Gen 1 RAS systems have three flaws:

1) ) To control organic waste,   G1 RAS systems use a combination of filters for solid waste and bacterial bioreactors for dissolved organics removal.  Some bacteria are safe but other organic eating bacteria (e.g. the Cold Water bacteria that are devastating US Trout farms) can break out and infect the crop.

1) To sequester toxic ammonia as nontoxic ammonium Gen 1 facilities set and control the pH to 7.2. While the salmon don’t die from ammonia toxicity,  the chronic exposure to acid causes stress on the animal,  lowering mitochondrial efficiency and increasing oxygen radical production.   The absence of oxygen radical taming astaxanthin exacerbates the damage.

3) To control nitrites,  Gen 1 facilities use 20-100% daily water changes. The demand for clean water and the toxicity levels of discharged water is just one downside.   Even with high water changes, the nitrite levels are controlled to <20 ppm whereas nitrite levels in excess of .35ppm have been shown to with oxygen uptake through the gills causing further chronic stress on the animal which in turn lowers the performance of the immune system. 

Our parent company, Sustainable Aquatics Inc. has a patent pending RAS design to solve these three problems.  They remove solid and dissolved organics entirely using advanced filtration techniques that literally starve bacteria using organic matter as their substrate.

Their RAS design operates at pH of 8.0.   They use bacteria to process ammonia into nitrite and nitrite into nontoxic nitrate.  This design reduces water consumption to circa 20% per every 10 days. Discharge water is clean but depleted of alkalinity.

Together these to innovations enable sustainable  land salmon farming without the use of pesticides, antibiotics, vaccines and toxic forms of astaxanthin.  We have developed and tested our designs at lab scale in salmon and production scale in marine ornamentals.

Mr. Frantz, if you happen to read this article, please contact us at We will gladly ship you a sample of sustainably raised farm salmon that meet all your criteria.