Wild Caught versus Farm Raised

Wild Caught refers to fish and shellfish that are captured in their natural environment by various means depending on the target species.

Farm Raised or aquaculture, refers to fish that are raised in a controlled environment, such as ocean pens or tanks. In other words, largely controlling their environment, what they eat, and how they grow.

Facts about aquaculture

Many would be surprised to learn that around half of the seafood consumed globally is produced by aquaculture the United States imports between 70-85% of its seafood with more than half of that produced by aquaculture.

The vast majority of shrimp, salmon, trout, and tilapia are farm-raised.

There is evidence that the Egyptians and Chinese used fish farming 3,000 years ago. There are also ancient Roman murals, dating back more than 2,000 years depicting aquaculture.

Is Farm-Raised seafood bad for you?

Many of the concerns people have with farmed fish today stem from the early days of aquaculture. In the 1970s and 80s there were a lot of problems and concerns. Problems like overcrowding of fish pens, how to control the waste and effluent (including pesticides, uneaten food and dead fish) from being flushed into the surrounding environment, and how to develop better, more organic feed were just some of the challenges. Farmed fish seemed unnatural to people, another example of human interference with nature. They did not consider that even though virtually everything else people ate, whether it be fruits, vegetables, beef, pork, chicken, etc. was farm raised.

Aquaculture has made great strides since those early days. Here at Joe’s, we are very aware of the quality and sustainability of any Farm Raised wish we purchase. Certifications such as the ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council), BAP (Best Aquaculture Practices) and FOS (Friend of the Sea means the farming operation has met very strict requirements and has been through very rigorous, meticulous inspections regarding every aspect of its operation. The feed must be fully traceable, the farm must develop and implement impact assessments to protect birds, marine mammals and sensitive habitats and steps must be taken to protect the seabed and the environment surrounding the farming operation. Joe’s is committed to providing you with a wide variety of responsibly sourced seafood, procured from well-managed wild fisheries and sustainable aquaculture producers.

Benefits of Farmed Seafood

Today, the fish farming industry is very aware of its carbon footprint for example, the rate is 1.61kg of greenhouse gas emissions generated for every one kilo of salmon produced. Compare that to beef, which comes in at 51kg of greenhouse gas emissions generated for every kg.

Certified fish farms are very clean, highly regulated, and safe. When done correctly, aquaculture provides a consistent and sustainable supply of food, creates jobs, and reduces the pressure on wild fish populations. One of the main benefits of farmed seafood for consumers is its availability. Farmed fishing provides a consistent and predictable supply of seafood, making it more accessible and affordable for consumers. Farmed seafood also relieves the pressure on wild stocks that are still in the process of recovering. No species has gone extinct because of farming. As the world population increases, the need for protein sources increases as well. Farmed seafood plays a vital role in providing additional resources for food.

Is Wild-Caught seafood better?

​​One benefit of wild-caught seafood is its natural diet. Fish caught in the wild feed on a diverse range of food, which gives them a range of nutrients and wild-caught fish often has a distinct flavor that is not present in farmed fish.

The United States has some of the most regulated fisheries in the world. Regulating and controlling the seafood industry here in America is an industry. There are a wealth of federal regulations, state regulations, local regulations, rules, orders, directives and statutes that must be followed.

Unfortunately, not every place in the world is as forward thinking and environmentally conscious as the US. The U.N. has a voluntary code of conduct and a study by them showed that 55% of countries are responsible for 96% of the world’s catch, sadly 40% of the world’s fishing is conducted unsustainably and largely in defiance of international codes of conduct. The US and Norway finished as countries with highest compliance rates. The bottom 28 countries, finished so poorly they were not even given a number grade, just listed as “FAIL.”

It may take some time to accomplish all of these goals. However, by taking these steps, along with others such as quotas, area closures, and size requirements, the US is working to guarantee there will be fish in the future.


Does commercial fishing destroy our environment?

Fishing methods evolved over the years. This is mainly seen in better made boats and more functional gear. Lately a big driver in improving fishing gear is concern for bycatch and the marine environment.

Fishermen have a vested interest in preserving their “workplace,” so to speak, and to make sure their supply of raw goods doesn’t run out.

Longliners, by nature of the way they operate, used to have a big problem with bycatch. So, they changed the kind of hooks they use. Fishermen now use circle hooks which can only hook a fish in the cartilage of the mouth, preventing some species from even being hooked in the first place. Shark bycatch has been reduced by attaching magnets to the lines. Sharks can sense the electrical fields generated by the magnets and therefore are deterred from taking the bait. Shrimpers used to unintentionally capture sea turtles in their gear. To prevent this, a device called TED (Turtle Excluder Device) has been required since 1987. These devices give turtles a backdoor out of the gear, thereby saving thousands of sea turtles since. Gill netters now use mesh size more specific to their target. Bottom trawlers used to be rough on the seabed, so modifications are being mandated. These modifications include raising the footropes on the trawl to raise it off the bottom and the banning of specific kinds of gear altogether.

Are there benefits to wild caught seafood?

In general, wild-caught fish is a healthy protein with slightly higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids and higher levels of potassium, zinc and iron than farmed fish. Wild-caught fish may have less calories as well. They roam, hunt and eat only what nature provides them. Keep in mind, this is all marginal. The healthiest choice is eating seafood, regardless whether it is farmed or wild.

What’s the carbon footprint of fish overall?
  • 1 gram of beef = 238g of CO2
  • 1 gram of cheese = 84g of CO2
  • 1 gram of pork = 65g of CO2
  • 1 gram of poultry = 43g of CO2
  • 1 gram of wild fish = 39g of CO2
  • 1 gram of aquaculture seafood = 24g of CO2


Can fish feed a hungry world? What is the outlook?

Increased demand for meat and dairy means fewer trees as land must be cleared for pastures. There will also be less land available for raising crops, less fresh water and more planet warming greenhouse gasses released into the atmosphere.

U.N. data says that by 2050, there will be two billion more people to feed, and the world will have to produce 70% more food to accommodate this increase. Healthy oceans and well-regulated fisheries can feed one billion people a day and carbon emissions from wild-caught fisheries are 6x lower than beef, and carbon emissions from aquaculture are 10x lower than beef.