The Dangers of Farmed Fish

June 21, 2017
Dangers of Farmed Fish - Dr. Axe

You may have heard that eating fish is a healthy option. That’s a true statement, but in most cases today, it’s only a partially true statement. The reality of where our fish come from is of paramount importance for our health! There is a vast difference between wild caught fish and farmed fish.

Fish farms produce supermarket protein with high concentrations of antibiotics, pesticides and lower levels of healthy nutrients.

Research has found that farmed fish have less usable omega-3 fatty acids than wild-caught fish, and a 20 percent lower protein content. A USDA review confirmed these findings. Farmed fish are fattier and have a high concentration of omega-6 fatty acids. Imbalances in the levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids create inflammation in the body.

7 Dangers of Farmed Fish

1. Antibiotics
Farm-raised fish are given antibiotics to stave off disease that results from crowded conditions. As a result of eating large quantities of antibiotic-filled meat and fish, however, diseases are becoming resistant to antibiotic treatment.

In the United States alone, 2 million people are infected with drug-resistant superbugs, and these superbugs kill at least 23,000 each year. (1) Tuberculosis, gonorrhea and pneumonia are three examples of illness that can now survive antibiotic treatment.

2. Pesticides
Fish farmers also treat their fish with pesticides to combat sea lice. Sea lice from fish farms kill up to 95 percent of migrating juvenile wild salmon. (2) The pesticides used to treat sea lice in fish farms circulate throughout the ocean. Pesticides that have been banned for decades have concentrated in the fat of various marine life.

This fat is used in the feed that fish farms use, and studies by the Environmental Working Group, along with those done in Canada, Ireland and the UK, have found that cancer-causing polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) exist in farm-raised salmon at 16 times the rate of wild salmon. (3)

3. Dibutyltin

Dibutyltin is a chemical used in PVC plastics. Dibutyltin can interfere with normal immune responses and inflammation control in both animals and humans. A 2008 study found that dibutyltin may be contributing to the rise of allergies, asthma, obesity and other metabolic and immune disorders in humans. (4) Scientists have found that dibutyltin in farm-raised mussels is more than six times higher than that of wild mussels.

4. Polybrominated Diphenyl

Researchers have also found levels of polybrominated diphenyl ether (PBDE), a chemical used as a flame retardant, in high levels in farm-raised fish. PBDEs are endocrine disruptors that are thought to contribute to cancer. Scientists believe that both fish feed and increasing concentrations in the open oceans are contributing to high PBDE levels in fish and humans.

5. Dioxins

Another study, conducted at the University of New York at Albany found that dioxin levels in farm-raised salmon are 11 times higher than those in wild salmon. (5)

Dioxins are one of the “dirty dozen,” says the World Health Organization (WHO) because they are highly toxic and are stored for a long time in the body. Their half-life in fat cells is seven to 11 years. (6)

Dioxins impair the endocrine, immune, nervous and reproductive systems and are carcinogens.

6. Canthaxanthin

Canthaxanthin is a synthetic pigment that is used to add a pink color to farm-raised salmon. Wild salmon get their color naturally by feeding on krill. Canthaxanthin is a compound found in sunless tanning pills. Studies have found that canthaxanthin can affect pigments in the retina of the eye, leading to a ban of its use in the UK — but not the U.S.

7. Harming the Environment

University of British Columbia professor Daniel Pauly calls aquafarms “floating pig farms” because tremendous amounts of fish feed and fish waste accumulate on the seafloor because of them, creating a perfect breeding ground for bacteria that threaten other marine life. (7)

Researchers from the George Mateljan Foundation say that “a good sized salmon farm produces an amount of excrement equivalent to the sewage of a city of 10,000 people.”

Fish farms threaten other sea life in other ways too. Fish farms don’t really combat overfishing; they contribute to it. Salmon, for instance, are carnivores. It takes about 2 ½ to 4 pounds of other fish to create the salmon chow needed to produce 1 pound of farm-raised salmon. The overfishing of wild sardines, anchovies, mackerel, herring and other fish upsets natural ecosystems. “We are not taking strain off wild fisheries,” says agricultural economist Rosamond L. Naylor. “We are adding to it. This cannot be sustained forever.”

Many scientists also worry about the dwindling biodiversity of fish. The wide variety of fish and other species and their genetic make-ups makes the food supply more sustainable. Diversity equals survival.

About 1 million farm-raised salmon have escaped from holes in nets from farms in the Puget Sound alone. (8) Biologists fear that farm-fish escapees may out-compete wild fish for food and territory, contributing to the demise of many fish species.

Interbreeding between escaped fish and wild may also dilute the wild salmon gene pool.

Drugs that could reduce farmed-fish growing times have also begun to arise. These drugs alter genes in fish so that they grow six times faster than normal fish, increasing the danger that wild species will be overcome.

Benefits of Wild-Caught Fish

This information is certainly sobering and should be enough to convince you to stay away from conventional farmed fish. These practices are even affecting the population of fish in the wild.

That’s why I don’t recommend eating fish – even wild-caught fish – on a daily basis. But the health benefits of certain wild caught fish like salmon just can’t be ignored.

Wild-caught salmon is very high in omega-3 fatty acids. These fats are known as essential fatty acids. Our bodies don’t produce them, so we must obtain them through our food. Wild-caught salmon also has a healthy balance of omega-3 to omega-6 fatty acids. When you have too many omega-6 fatty acids in your body, inflammation occurs.

Cold water fish such as salmon are a good source of vitamin D – an extremely important nutrient that is essential for a wide variety of bodily functions. The sun is your best source of vitamin D, but since most people don’t get enough sun in the winter months, wild-caught salmon is a great way to add more of it into your diet.

Also found in wild-caught salmon are healthy protein, selenium, niacin, vitamin B12, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin B6.

Josh Axe

Get FREE Access!

Dr. Josh Axe is on a mission to provide you and your family with the highest quality nutrition tips and healthy recipes in the world...Sign up to get VIP access to his eBooks and valuable weekly health tips for FREE!

Free eBook to boost
metabolism & healing

30 Gluten-Free Recipes
& detox juicing guide

Shopping Guide &
premium newsletter



  1. Lucille Bailles on

    <p>Thank you for posting this information. My husband and I have been aware of this for some time so we do not eat farm raised fish. A lot of people may not be aware of what you have posted. We have been buying canned Pillar Rock salmon but it is not available everywhere. Can you recommend some other brands that you use? We wll be trying your Salmon Pattie recipe; it sounds nutritious and delicious. (We will not be trying your Chocolate Moose recipe with avocado, if we are going to be decadent, which is not often, then we will go for decadent.) Thanks again.<br/>Lucille</p>

  2. Nikki on

    <p>This is nice to know since I buy farm raised fish trying to avoid possible mercury. So basically no more fresh/frozen fish unless I move! What a bummer.</p>

  3. Gordon on

    <p>We found a good canned wild salmon at Costco—Bear and Wolf wild Alaskan pink salmon. You have to buy several cans bundled together but the price is very reasonable.</p><p>One can also buy fresh wild caught salmon filets, cook them on the grill or in the oven and then freeze them for later use.</p><p>Gordon</p>

  4. Anne Mosness on

    The National Organic Standards Board is meeting in Seattle April 25-29 and in doing some research for my comments to the Board, I found Dr.Axe’s website and am highly impressed! I harvested Copper River and Bristol Bay wild salmon for nearly 3 decades and also have researched the fish farm industry. Sadly, agencies that should be protecting human health and the environment are pushing genetically engineered salmon, fish farms as close as 3 miles to our coastlines and certification of farmed fish as “organic”. It shows the influence of industry proponents who are in decision making positions. Frozen wild salmon is splendid and canned is also tasty. I eat fish nearly daily and my father continued to come to our Alaska boat until he was 84, so we know the health benefits of a wild fish diet. By purchasing wild fish, income is returned to small businesses and remote communities that are trying to fend off open pit mining and other short term, extractive activities, so folks can do good by eating well.

    • Jordy Velez on

      farmed fish are usually fed corn, which lowers omega 3 and raises omega 7 which is actually bad for you. a lot of problems with feeding corn to animals such as chickens and cows as well. do you know our beef is washed in ammonia to kill e. coli which only develops in beef raised on corn? do you know 99% of our tilapia comes from china where its used to clean the rivers and streams of human feces. That tilapia is not allowed to be sold as food to the Chinese so they ship it here. I started raising tilapia at home, eats mostly vegetation and I know what my fish eat, so I know what I eat. got my tilapia from

Comments are closed.

More Posts