“Wild fish like nicer leh!” – Be it chefs or aunties at the market, most people seem to think that wild-caught fish is always better than farmed fish. Some are even willing to shell out extra cash to order wild-caught fish at restaurants. But is wild-caught fish really the best option? We take a look at the good and bad of wild-caught fish:


Taste and texture

It is true that wild-caught fish and farmed fish taste different. But the difference may not always be good, depending on your preferences. 

Wild fish tend to be leaner as they are constantly swimming for their lives – literally. These fish need to escape from predators, hence they swim a lot more than farmed fish. Combine this with the strong currents in the ocean, wild-caught fish thus tend to have leaner and firmer meat. 

In terms of taste, wild-caught fish may also have a stronger flavour due to the variety in their meals. As compared to farmed fish that eat the same feed daily, wild fish consume whatever they can find at mealtimes. This is why many of them have a “fishier” taste. Freshwater fish from longkangs or muddy rivers may also not taste good due to the dirt and grime from their environment. So it’s important to take note of the source of your fish when you go shopping! 


Nutrients and chemicals

Both wild-caught fish and farmed fish are great sources of nutrients and protein. As they have been brought up in nature, wild-caught fish are not pumped with chemicals and antibiotics. But that’s not to say that they are completely free of chemicals. 

Due to pollution, wild-caught fish have been found with microplastics in their organs. They also tend to be higher in heavy metals that are naturally present in the sea, such as mercury and lead. Large predatory fish like shark and swordfish carry a higher amount of mercury as they ingest them through their prey, and are unable to excrete them as quickly. So limit your intake of such larger, wild-caught fish, especially for children and those who are pregnant, as excessive consumption of heavy metals could lead to health problems.


Environmental impact

A significant downside of wild-caught fish is their impact on the environment. There are many ways to capture fish in the wild, with the most common method being purse seine. Purse-what, you ask? Purse seine (pronounced pur-sane) involves enclosing a large wall of net around a school of fish before drawing them up into the fishing vessel. This means some non-targeted marine creatures, called bycatch, may get caught in the net as well. 

Trawling is also a commonly used method in commercial fishing. This involves dragging a net across the seabed or sea to capture a large amount of seafood. If unmanaged, trawling is very harmful to the environment, as non-targeted species such as corals could be destroyed in the process. 

A more ethical way of commercial fishing would be the pole and line method, where one fish is caught at a time. The ones deemed unsuitable for sale are usually released and there is no bycatch involved. While this is a kinder way to fish, it is much less efficient than trawling and purse seine, hence it is mainly used to catch bigger fish like tuna. 

Aside from commercial fishing methods, overfishing is another looming problem. Overfishing happens when fish is captured faster than it can be replenished in the ocean, and it is already happening worldwide. What’s worse is that nearly 50 million tonnes of bycatch are discarded every year, according to a report by the UN in 2018. If we continue eating wild-caught fish excessively, it is entirely possible that some species could disappear for good

Does that mean we should stop eating fish? The answer is no, as fish is still very beneficial to our health, and the industry also supports millions of jobs. The key is to really be more mindful of the source of our fish and to avoid consuming them excessively. 


“The key is to really be more mindful of the source of our fish and to avoid consuming them excessively.”


The next time you’re out fish-shopping, opt for sustainably farmed fish or those that are caught ethically. Look out for labels like those by the MSC to make sure that the fish comes from sustainable fisheries. You can also use the WWF Singapore Seafood Guide to figure out which wild-caught species to avoid.


At TSSP, we aim to become an environmentally sustainable farm. We work with like-minded partners to ensure that our wild-caught seafood comes from ethical sources, and we are transparent with that in our sustainability scorecards. Our farm-operations arm, Atlas Aquaculture, uses a closed-loop system that recycles and reuses 95% of water so that we do not need to draw seawater constantly too. Find out more about our commitment to the environment!


Cover Image:

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexel

Fish dish Image:

Photo by Suphansa Subruayying on iStock

Bird and trash Image:

Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Purse seine Image:

Photo by taylanibrahim on iStock

Trawler Image:

Photo by Quang Nguyen Vinh on Pexel

Supermarket fish Image:

Photo by Hakase_ on iStock

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