Continuing his effort to promote and protect Alaska seafood, U.S. Senator Mark Begich challenged Hollywood fitness trainer Harley Pasternak's People Magazine article about the virtues of farmed fish vs. wild fish.
In a letter that describes the benefits of wild salmon over their "floating corncob" counterparts, Begich describes fish farms as environmental polluters that feed their fish "crops" with genetically modified grains.
"It's a disservice to point your clients and your fans toward farm fish, the corncob couch potatoes of the ocean, instead of encouraging them to eat fresh, healthy wild fish like Alaska salmon," wrote Begich in his September 5, 2013 letter. "Alaska salmon is abundant, natural and sustainable. Our industry employs over 70,000 fishermen and processing workers and provides more than half the seafood produced in the U.S."
In his People Magazine article Pasternak, whose celebrity clients include Halle Berry, Katy Perry, Kanye West and Lady Gaga, implied that farm fish have certain health benefits over wild fish. Sen. Begich, who has challenged Wal-Mart and multi-national giant Sodexo Coporation on their seafood purchasing policies and engaged in a social media stand-off with the CEO of Domino's Pizza over a halibut-maligning video, responded to the article after staff brought it to his attention.
"Mr. Pasternak is a popular health and fitness personality who has written several books on healthy lifestyles," said Sen. Begich. "Before he writes another book or blog post or magazine article I want to make sure he has all the facts. As we say in Alaska, "Friends don't let friends eat farmed fish.'"
Sen. Begich's letter to Mr. Pasternak is attached. The text of the letter is below:
Dear Mr. Pasternak,
I understand in Los Angeles they call you "The Man Behind Hollywood's Hottest Bods." And while my wife and I are big fans of your work (Robert Downey Jr. and Halle Berry), your recent column in People Magazine doesn't pull its weight when favorably comparing farmed fish with wild fish for a healthy diet.
Why should consumers choose wild fish over farmed fish?
1. Wild fish are more nutritious. According to FDA studies, wild salmon have a 20 percent higher protein content than farm-raised salmon.
2. Farm fish are "swimming corncobs." It's believed that because of the use of grains rather than natural feed, levels of heart-healthy omega-3 fats are about 50 percent lower in farmed salmon than in wild salmon. Farmed salmon are sometimes referred to as "swimming corncobs."
3. Farm fish get sick--a lot. Farm fish suffer from disease, lice and pests and are given antibiotics to combat disease. Even with antibiotics, it is not uncommon for a large percentage of the farm fish "crop' to die in captivity.
4. Farm fish damages the environment. Waste from fish farms pollutes. Experts estimate that salmon waste off the coast of British Columbia, for example, releases as much nitrogen as sewage from a city with a population of 250,000. Gross.
5. Farm fish are couch potatoes. Instead of fighting against the raging currents of glacially fed streams, evading predators, and "getting their spawn on" like their wild cousins, farm fish are restricted to their farm fish tanks. They don't have to battle predators and raging waters or even search for food. The farm fish just has to swim and eat--the equivalent of an aquatic couch potato.
So if you like the taste of antibiotics and are a big fan of genetically modified food that harms the environment, then farm-raised fish are for you.
Mr. Pasternak, your life's work is making people fit and healthy, and you seem to do a great job at it. So it's a disservice to point your clients and your fans toward farm fish, the corncob couch potatoes of the ocean, instead of encouraging them to eat fresh, healthy wild fish like Alaska salmon. Alaska salmon is abundant, natural and sustainable. Our industry employs over 70,000 fishermen and processing workers and provides more than half the seafood produced in the U.S. every year, over 5 billion pounds. It's also sustainable. Alaskans wrote the book on sustainable fisheries management because it's as good for our long-term economy as it is for our health.
We may not be so different--except that you work with Halle Berry. We both want consumers to make the best choice for a healthy diet so they can live longer, stronger and enjoy a higher quality of life. I hope you will reconsider your column on farm fish and instead become an advocate for fresh, delicious, naturally-organic and sustainably caught wild Alaska seafood.