Salmon: What fish is this?


From captive breeding to metal contamination in the open sea, suspicions threaten the reputation of the fish. Does he deserve to be treated with suspicion?

Salmon, once so highly acclaimed, is now at the center of several controversies. The nourishing partnership between salmon and the human species comes from distant times. Archaeologists have found fish bones in man-made caves in North America for over 11,500 years. But nothing prevents older ancestors from elsewhere and catching this noble source of protein and fat.

We speak of a peculiar animal, which in nature is classified as anadromous. This means that they stay most of their life cycle at sea, but reproduce in freshwater. The family of salmonids (which still includes trout) played a crucial role in the menu of people who lived in icy areas, especially the Vikings – who tasted them even for breakfast – and the Eskimos, who later threw the bait to scientists investigate the benefits of omega-3 to the heart.

Thus passed centuries of abundance in which fishing was carried out without the slightest control. In addition to the changes imposed on the natural habitat this voracity and carelessness have resulted in a frightening reduction in salmon populations off the European coast. The fish were mostly in the Atlantic countries of Europe, but today it is rarer because of the modification that the rivers have undergone.

Although the area around Alaska has a good deal of native Pacific species including the popular Alaska salmon, fish stocks around the world were only really replenished when captive breeding took hold in Norway in the mid-20th century. Although it originates from the Northern Hemisphere, from the regions on the edge of the Arctic, today its cultivation is a success below the equator, especially on the coast of Chile. The temperature of the seas, around 8ºC, contributes to make this country a great producer. This is where most of the salmon we enjoy here comes from.

By the amount there is no doubt that the nurseries contributed to the popularization of fish. However, there are those who see in captivity production a tide of environmental problems. The expansion of this crop into wilderness, pond effluent and chemical use makes it difficult to predict an ecologically sustainable future.

Added to these criticisms are claims that, for now, sound more like prejudice. It is the case of the consideration that it would be less nutritious than the wild version. There’s a lot of fallacy and a lot of legends out there.

Much of the animal’s bad reputation on seafaring is associated with (unconfirmed) allegations that it is tinged with toxic dyes and recent outbreaks of diseases that affect the fish themselves. Chilean aquaculture has suffered from virus attacks, especially one called ISA, which can be fatal to the animal.

The crisis worsened earlier this year when the ocean was overrun with an algae bloom. Biologists explain that the rise in the planet’s temperature, due to the El Niño phenomenon, caused this imbalance and increased the mortality of several species, including salmon.


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