The Fish Debate

by Constance P. Hill

With so many choices available, it is Possible to find good quality fish that provides all the health benefits.

The recent controversy surrounding farmed salmon has many consumers confused. Salmon has become a staple on restaurant menus and dinner tables. It contains all the essential omega-3 fatty acids. However, it is becoming clear that farmed salmon contains much higher concentrations of contaminants (pcb’s, dioxin, etc.).

The alternatives are to purchase organic farmed salmon, wild salmon, when in season, or one could try Arctic Char, which is very similar to salmon and provides the same health benefits. Organic farmed salmon is available from Scotland and Ireland and becoming widely available at fish markets in the St. Lawrence Market and specialty food shops like Pusateri’s. Wild Salmon is still the first choice but the season is very short and the supply limited.

Arctic Char, a flavourful pink-fleshed fish which resembles salmon, with a longer and more colourful body is a great alternative to salmon. It is a cross between salmon and trout and provides both the carotenoids and omega-3 fatty acids. The majority of Arctic Char is farmed in Canada and Iceland. Wild Char, caught in Canada, Norway, Russia, Greenland and Iceland is available for only a few weeks in the fall.

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Farmed or Wild Arctic Char is a good substitute for Salmon because unlike farmed Atlantic Salmon, the Arctic Char is farmed in an environmentally responsible environment. Arctic Char have been farmed commercially for less than 20 years and about 3.000 tons are produced by fish farms worldwide (compared to 750,000 tons of salmon).

The Arctic Char must live in colder water than either Salmon or Rainbow Trout and have a low tolerance for saline environments. When buying Arctic Char note that the colour of the flesh can vary significantly from wild to farmed and even from one farm to another. The colour can range from dark red to pale pink. The ideal colour is bright silvery skin with white or pink spots and a fresh scent.

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