Salmon served as sushi is not a Japanese idea for food

Farmed salmon from Norway and Chile

Farmed salmon sold in Japan from Norway and Chile

Never developed a taste for raw salmon for a number of reasons the least of which are that almost all the salmon served in Japan as sushi, is farmed salmon. The Japanese prior to the 1970s, never ate raw salmon. In fact, prior to the 1970s, Japan never imported fish for consumption. Japan fished the oceans for their own fish.  It wasn’t until Norway came up with the Japan Project to sell farmed salmon to Japan. These are only two reasons I don’t eat raw salmon, but a far more serious reason has to do with the destruction of salmon as a wild species of fish in the critical food chain. People do not seriously think about just how salmon play such an enormous part in the food chain cycle and if this species of fish were permanently destroyed the consequences would be catastrophic.

The  image on the left above was taken of salmon filets sold at a local market in Japan and are farmed salmon probably imported from either Chile or Norway. Looking at these salmon filets, the striations of fat can be clearly seen, however, in wild salmon, the meat is far darker in color and there are no fat striations. When salmon are farmed, toxins collect in these fatty striations and have been determined as being carcinogenic. A study published in 2009, in the leading scientific journal Science, found significantly higher levels of cancer-causing and other health-related contaminants in farm raised salmon than in their wild counterparts. The study, and by far the largest and most comprehensive done to date, concluded that concentrations of several cancer-causing substances in particular are high enough to suggest that consumers should consider severely restricting their consumption of farmed salmon. In 2013, there were 360,953 cancer related deaths in Japan, and 2014 and 2015 look to be equally as devastating for cancer deaths in the Japanese.

We are now wondering if there exists a correlation between Japan’s high consumption of farmed raw salmon and cancer? In particular, four substances that have been well studied for their ability to cause cancer — PCBs, dioxins, dieldrin, and toxaphene — were consistently and significantly more concentrated in farmed salmon as a group. In the same study mentioned above in the January 9, 2009 issue of Science, it clearly indicated that because of the feed farmed salmon are given (pellets), farmed salmon have much higher levels of carcinogenic pesticides (specifically polychlorinated biphenyls or PCBs, and two other organochlorine compounds, dieldrin and toxaphene) than wild salmon. Farmed salmon production has increased 40 times in the past decade.

The differences between wild and farmed salmon

The differences between wild and farmed salmon

People around the world have tried to protect their home waters from salmon farms for 20 years. Work that is being worked on by activists and the Ahousaht people in British Columbia, Canada whose culture has depended heavily on wild salmon. On September 9, 2015, Ahousaht people stepped onto a fish farm as it was trying to anchor to their territory and told the crew to leave. The behemoth Japanese corporation Mitsubishi in September, 2014 made a US1.4 billion bid to buy the Norwegian fishery Cermaq ASA for 8.88 billion kroner ($1.4 billion) to expand its foods business and become the world’s second-largest salmon farmer. Despite people around the world becoming aware of the dangers of farmed salmon.

Mitsubishi is the largest trading house in Japan and monopolizes most of Japan’s domestic market on many products. Not much gets sold in Japan if this behemoth corporation knows about it. Raw salmon in Japan is a large business as part of the food industry related to eating raw fish (sushi). In the 1970s, Japan did not import a single piece of fish and it did not use salmon for sushi. That all started to change in the 1980s after a Norwegian seafood delegation visited Japan and Project Japan was formed. Today, Norwegian salmon is the sushi fish of choice among young Japanese. It is all farmed salmon and most Japanese are clueless as to the source of this salmon. Project Japan not only blazed a trail for Atlantic salmon (Norwegian farmed salmon) for raw consumption in Japan, but also in Hong Kong and China.  In 2013, it was the biggest year in terms of sales of Norwegian farmed salmon to Japan.

Alexandra Morton is a remarkably brave and persistent activist in British Columbia, Canada who has been documenting and testing farm salmon for diseases that are spread through farm raised salmon and her findings are startling. This important video documentary is well worth spending the time to watch to learn about this incredibly unique and important species of fish and how humans depend on it for their survival.

Salmon Confidential Documentary 2013 British Columbia

Additional reading:

10,000 People Ask Norway to Divest its Dirty Salmon Farming Industry

Ever Wondered: Why is wild salmon a deeper red than farmed salmon?

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