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The newest oil rush is for Omega-3. Omega-3 is an essential fatty acid which is astounding scientists in the health field and nutritionists worldwide. This is not another fad; literally thousands of studies are uncovering the health benefits of this oil. Omega-3 consumption dramatically reduces the risk of heart attack, improves rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, type 2 diabetes and preliminary research indicates it may aid in cancer prevention and brain function. Increased consumption may even cure depression.
No wonder Prince Rupertites can withstand those short, dark, damp, winter days; they’ve been blessed with the antidote: our wild salmon are loaded with Omega-3!
Beef and chicken contain Omega-3 but unfortunately they also contain large quantities of Omega-6, which though essential, is bad for us in large quantities and counters the benefits of Omega-3. Meat used to be healthier; with a good ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6, but with the advent of factory farming the ratio has gone way down to the point where we are getting too many bad fats in our diet. Nutritionists are urging people to eat fish, especially salmon, which is loaded with Omega-3 but low in other unhealthy fats.
The salmon farmers have been hoping to capitalize on this rush for Omega-3 but unfortunately, although their product can be as good as some wild salmon, it depends on the quality of the fish feed used. If the farmed salmon aren’t fed pellets made from anchovies or other fish rich in Omega-3, the ratio of good Omega-3 to other unhealthy oils goes down. To save money, fish farms are already experimenting with lower quality feeds which result in unhealthy ratios more in line with factory farm animals than with wild salmon.
The world supply of Omega-3 rich fish used for fish food is already at its maximum harvest level and there is increasing demand for it. The fish meal and oils used in salmon farms are also used in chicken and cattle feed and now, as we learn more about the great health benefits, it is increasingly being used to produce pharmaceutical grade Omega-3 oil for people. Fish farms won’t be able to get enough fish meal to expand unless they resort to ever lower quality feeds which will result in ever lower ratios of Omega-3 to Omega-6. Not only are consumers worrying about the environmental dangers of fish farms they are finding out about the importance of Omega-3 ratios and are switching back to wild salmon.
Our local access to a precious resource, wild salmon, is an economic opportunity which, if protected, will give us increasing benefits. Pink salmon for instance are rich sources of Omega-3 and we are currently letting many of them go to waste. The world’s supply of Omega-3 is limited and the demand for it is going up. On the Northcoast, we have one of the last remaining wild salmon resources: Atlantic salmon are commercially extinct and Chili doesn’t have wild salmon.
It is understandable that eastern Canada, Chili, the eastern United States and Europe might experiment with farmed salmon; they don’t have our marvelous Chinook, Pink, Coho and Chum. Present methods of fish farming have the potential to destroy our wild salmon runs and farmed salmon can never replace them. We in B.C. and Alaska have a tremendous asset which the world is just beginning to appreciate.