With all the knocks against farm-raised salmon, it might come as a surprise that there's at least one variety that has won over some top U.S. chefs and a Scottish environmental organization.

It is Loch Duart salmon, raised in pens off the coast of Scotland.

Loch Duart, an independently owned Scottish farm that was established in 1999, received a Scottish national honor in 2005, known as the Vision in Business for the Environment for Scotland award. It also was the first salmon farm to receive the Freedom Food certification from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals for its fish welfare practices.

In general, the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program recommends avoiding farmed salmon because they are grown in huge nets that float in the ocean, resulting in excess waste and food pollution. Farmed salmon sometimes escape from pens, too, and end up competing with wild fish for food and habitat. They also often are raised using pesticides, antibiotics and chemical additives that change the fish's normal gray pallor into the more familiar orange hue.

Loch Duart's farmed salmon, a species that is indigenous to Scotland waters, are raised without hormones or antibiotics. The salmon are fed fishmeal custom-made from sustainable seafood, says Tim O'Shea of CleanFish's San Francisco office. It takes 1.1 pounds of fish meal to grow 1 pound of the salmon.

Loch Duart also has adopted the rare practice of allowing one of its three sites to remain fallow each year -- for an entire year -- much like crop rotation in agriculture, to allow it to return to a more natural state before production resumes.

Still, it has its critics. "Loch Duart is doing the best you can do," says Paul Johnson, owner of Monterey Fish Market in San Francisco and Berkeley. In general, he says, "I'm against aquaculture. I see the day coming when that's all we will have."

Indeed, he and other environmentalists would prefer that governments around the world better manage their natural watersheds so that wild salmon populations become healthier and more abundant.

Contact Carolyn Jung at cjung@mercurynews.com or 408-920-5451.

Catch it

Loch Duart salmon can be purchased at Lunardi's in Danville and Walnut Creek. Here's a list of some East Bay restaurants that carry it; for a complete list, go to http://www.cleanfish.com.

  • Baci: 4889 Hopyard Road, Pleasanton, 925-469-6266.

  • Bing Crosby's: 1342 Broadway Plaza, Walnut Creek, 925-939-2464.

  • Cafe de la Paz: 1600 Shattuck Ave., Berkeley, 510-843-0662.

  • Citron: 5484 College Ave., Oakland, 510-653-5484.

  • Crogan's: 6101 La Salle Ave., Montclair, 510-339-2098.

  • Il Fornaio: Various Bay Area locations, including Walnut Creek, San Jose, Palo Alto, Burlingame, San Francisco, Corte Madera and Carmel; http://www.ilfornaio.com.

  • Lalime's: 1329 Gilman St., Berkeley, 510-527-9838.

  • Left Bank: Bay Area locations in Pleasant Hill, San Jose, San Mateo, Menlo Park, and Larkspur; http://www.leftbank.com.

  • Nizza la Bella: 825 San Pablo Ave., Albany, 510-526-2552.

  • Piatti: Northern California locations in Santa Clara, Danville, Mill Valley, Carmel, Roseville and Sacramento; http://www.piatti.com.

  • Sea Salt: 2512 San Pablo Ave., Berkeley, 510-883-1720.