Numerous people still believe in the countless benefits of fishing, but its other grim aspect was revealed in the documentary by Nicolas Daniel, titled “Fillet-Oh-Fish”, which tries to show a different image of the fish industry, featuring exclusive footage from fish farms and factories.
Nowadays, fisheries fight a lot of issues, as overfishing, chemical pollution, toxins, and genetic mutations. The film producers reveal that “through intensive farming and global pollution, the flesh of the fish we eat has turned into a deadly chemical cocktail.”
Yet, the fish business is on the increase, mostly due to the efforts of modern fisheries to keep their industry out of public sight.
While aquaculture is believed to be a sustainable overfishing solution, fish farms lead to numerous problems.
The documentary starts off in Norway, investigating the chemicals used in fish farms. A Norwegian environmental activist, Kurt Oddekalv, claims that salmon farming poses risks to the environment and the human health.
There is a 150meter high layer of waste below the salmon farms across the Norwegian fjords, which is full of drugs, bacteria, and pesticides. This indicates that the sea floor is completely destroyed and the pollution they cause.
Over two million salmon can be held in the small amount of space of one salmon farm. These crowded conditions cause diseases which are quickly spread among the fish.
Oddekalv says that even consumers are uninformed, sea lice, Pancreas Disease(PD) and Infectious Salmon Anemia Virus (ISA) have spread all across Norway, but the diseased fish is constantly sold.
To fight the disease-causing pests, producers use numerous harmful pesticides, and salmon has become one of the most toxic foods.
These claims have been confirmed by the toxicology researcher Jerome Ruzzin, who has tested numerous different food groups sold in Norway for toxins, and found that farmed salmon contains the greatest amount of toxins. It is 5 times more toxic than any other tested foods. Ruzzin claims that the increased diabetes rates are linked to the numerous toxins and pollutants we are exposed to.
The pesticides used to stave off sea lice affect the DNA of fish, leading to genetic mutations.
Oddekalv also adds that about 50 percent of farmed cod are deformed, and female cod that manage to escape from farms mate with wild cod, which spreads the genetic mutations and deformities into the wild population.
Farmed salmon also suffer mutations, and the flesh becomes “brittle,” and breaks apart when bent. Moreover, the farmed salmon has about
The nutritional content is also wildly abnormal. Wild salmon contains 14.5 to 34 percent fat, in comparison to 5-7% in wild salmon. The fat is the place where many toxins accumulate.
The dry pellet food is also a source of toxic exposure, as it contains various chemicals, drugs, dioxins, and PCBs.
The main ingredient in one Norwegian fish pellet plant is the eel, which is rich in fat and protein, as well as many Baltic sea fish. Yet, the thing is that the Baltic is highly polluted, and the government advises eating fatty fish, not more than once a week.
According to the Swedish Greenpeace activist Jan Isakson, this is a result of the massive paper mill on the bank of the Baltic that generates toxic dioxins.
Moreover, 9 other industrialized countries surrounding the Baltic Sea throw their toxic waste into the water, and since dioxins bind to fat, salmon, eel, and herring are prone to the accumulation of the toxins. Since they are not suitable for human consumption, they are used as fish food.
Another huge problem is the manufacturing process of the pellets. Initially, the fatty fish are cooked, which creates two separate products: protein meal and oil. The protein powder adds to the toxicity, and the oil is rich in dioxins and PCBs.
One of the biggest secrets of the fish food industry is the fact that the protein powder is enriched with an “antioxidant” called ethoxyquin, which has been developed as a pesticide in the 1950s by Monsanto.
A few years ago, the analysis conducted in a Swiss anti-fraud laboratory found extremely high levels of ethoxyquin in farmed fish, 10 to 20 times more than the 50 mcg per kilo allowed in food in the European Union.
This pesticide was designed for fruits and vegetables use only, but it has been added to fish feed to prevent the fats from oxidizing and going rancid. This practice was never revealed to the health authorities, so it was never regulated by law.
There was only one study conducted on ethoxyquin and its effects on human health. This was the thesis by Victoria Bohne, Ph.D. a former researcher in Norway, and it found that it crosses the blood-brain barrier, and might cause cancer.
Yet, the researcher was pressured to leave the research after they tried to falsify and downplay her findings.
The secret use of this pesticide and the lack of scientific investigation have been linked to the Norwegian Minister of Fisheries and Coastal Affairs, Lisbeth Berg-Hansen, who has held numerous high-ranking positions within the fishing industry, and also happens to be a major shareholder in a commercial salmon farm.
In the last 50 years, the consumption of fish has doubled in France and is now surpassing the consumption of both beef and chicken. The high demand led to the import of fish from around the world. More than half of the fish sold in France is farmed.
A decade ago, one of the 10most consumed fish there, Panga, was relatively unknown. Its low price helped its sales in the school system. The documentary asks for the reason for its low price and its daily consumption by children.
They started investigating the case in southern Vietnam, where this fish is a common part of the cuisine. Yet, in the last 15 years, the exports of panga have been the main income of the population.
South Vietnam accounts for over 95 percent of the global production of the panga, and this leads to both, environmental and human exploitation.
Farmed panga grows 204 times faster than other fish in the wild, so it reached adult size in 6 months.
It is then harvested, and processed, which includes washing the fillets in large vats filled with water and polyphosphates, which are chemical additives that ease their freezing and allow the fish to soak up water and thus gain weight. Afterward, the panga loses its odor and taste.
Numerous farms which raise panga suffer from diseases, due to the polluted water. Many farms are located on the Mekong River, which is one of the most heavily polluted rivers in the world.
Panga was classified on the “red” list of products in 2009 by the World Wide Fund for Nature, which means that it poses risks to environmental and human health.
The immune systems of the fish are vulnerable to the pesticides used in the cultivation of rice and the waste dumped directly in this river by millions of people daily, as well as the toxins released by bacteria and green algae.
To fight disease, farmers use industrial amounts of drugs into the fish ponds, which causes drug resistance, and makes them increase the dosage.
The antibiotics used spread through the river systems, and the tissues of fish absorb them, and they are eliminated through feces. This leads to the redistribution of drugs back into the environment.
While we still regard fish as one of the healthiest foods on Earth, we need to be extra careful these days, due to the risks imposed by the industrial age. In the end, the documentary reveals the way fish waste, like fish heads and tails, has become a “highly valued commodity” used in processed foods and represents a real profit maker.
Nowadays, nothing is virtually thrown as waste, and while the cosmetic industry uses the fish skins, the remainder of the fish waste is washed, ground into a pulp, and used in pet food and prepared meals. Fish manufacturers are not asked to reveal the products in fish pulp, so they make huge profits from it.
Furthermore, the investigation has shown that 1 in three fish labels are misleading or false. In most cases, an inexpensive fish is mislabeled as a more expensive one, and farmed fish is said to be wild, which is easy due to the complexity of traceability of the ingredients.
Unfortunately, most fish, even if wild caught, is excessively contaminated with chemicals, toxins, PCBs, and dioxins, mercury, and heavy metals, and fish farms are not viable solutions to overfishing, you should try to optimize your omega-3 levels from some other source than fish.
Yet, there are two exceptions, wild-caught Alaskan sockeye salmon and small fish with shorter life cycles.
Sockeye has a reduced risk of accumulating high amounts of mercury and other toxins due to its short life cycle of about 3 years. Also, it does not feed on fish so the bioaccumulation of toxins is also lower. It is not allowed to be farmed, so it is wild-caught in all cases.
Moreover, smaller fish with short life cycles, such as sardines and anchovies, are also a good alternative, as they are at a reduced risk of contamination and are high in nutrients. One general rule you should know is that the lower on the food chain a fish is, the less contamination it has accumulated.
You can also choose herring and fish roe (caviar), which are rich sources of important phospholipids that are vital for the health of the mitochondrial membranes.