Oceana Calls for Global Testing and Labeling for Salmon, Fish Supply

Jan 08, 2004, 00:00 ET from Oceana

    WASHINGTON, Jan. 8 /PRNewswire/ -- Oceana today called for global testing
 and labeling of fish in response to new findings reported in the journal
 Science that consuming farm-raised salmon could pose significant health risks.
 The study exhaustively tested and compared salmon raised by the fast-growing
 aquaculture industry to those caught in the wild and found that many extremely
 toxic chemicals accumulate at significantly higher levels in farm-raised fish.
 The farm-raised fish consistently carry levels high enough to trigger warnings
 from the Environmental Protection Agency and the World Health Organization.
     "When combined with reports of mercury contamination in other species of
 fish such as swordfish and tuna, as well as pesticides in shrimp -- to say
 nothing of concerns about mad cow disease -- this study demonstrates that
 people need better information about what they are eating and where it comes
 from.  One way they can get that information is from testing and labeling
 programs," said Jackie Savitz, Director of Pollution Programs for Oceana.
     Among the chemicals of concern are PCBs, formerly used in electrical
 equipment; dioxins, which are byproducts of waste incineration; and the
 pesticides toxaphene and dieldrin.  Many other chemicals were also found at
 much higher levels in the farmed fish than in the wild fish.  These chemicals,
 known as organochlorines, can cause a host of illnesses including cancer,
 reproductive and immune impairment, and neurological and developmental
     The researchers attribute the significant difference in contamination to
 differences in diet between farm-raised and wild-caught fish.  Their analyses
 found that feed for farm-raised salmon, which is concentrated and high in fish
 oils and fish meal, was also significantly contaminated.
     "This is a global problem that hits very close to everyone's home," said
 Andrew Sharpless, Chief Executive Officer of Oceana.  "Fish are a healthy part
 of the diet and people should not be forced to choose between nutrition and
 contamination -- but they must be able to distinguish safe fish from
 contaminated fish.
     "We need a global testing and labeling program so we can make an informed
 choice about what we eat.  Letting people know that they're eating farmed
 salmon -- and where it comes from -- is an important first step."
     Contaminant levels were highest in salmon raised in European countries,
 possibly as a result of higher contamination levels in fish feed produced
     According to Xavier Pastor, Vice President for European Oceans and Seas,
 "Due to the high levels of toxics in farmed salmon in Europe, Oceana is also
 calling on the European Union to more carefully regulate farm-raised fish and
 above all to eliminate contamination that threatens public health."
     Salmon from farms in Chile were somewhat less contaminated than those
 produced in North America or Europe, but were still significantly more
 contaminated than wild-caught fish.  Marcel Claude, Vice President for
 Southern Oceans and Antarctica in Santiago, Chile, stated "Chile should not be
 proud that its salmon is not the most contaminated.  As a major producer of
 farm-raised salmon, Chile must make sure its fish are safe to eat."
     Oceana is a non-profit international advocacy organization dedicated to
 restoring and protecting the world's oceans through policy advocacy, science,
 law and public education.  Founded in 2001, Oceana's constituency includes
 members and activists from more than 150 countries and territories who are
 committed to saving the world's marine environment.  Oceana, headquartered in
 Washington, D.C., has additional offices in key U.S. coastal areas, a South
 American office in Santiago, Chile, and a European office in Madrid, Spain.
 For more information, please visit www.Oceana.org.
     CONTACT:  Sam Haswell of Oceana, +1-202-467-1906.