Choosing Sustainable Seafood

April 17, 2011 View all articles in Home

There are some who believe it's impossible to be truly “green” unless they become strict vegetarians or vegans. While it's true that eliminating all meat and animal products from our diets would solve a lot of environmental complications and wildlife concerns, translating such truth into action isn't always so easy. Still, even the most enthusiastic seafood lovers can acknowledge that something needs to be done; we eat over 130 million tons of fish every year (over 70 percent of which are wild-caught), a quantity that is rapidly disproving the old adage, “there's plenty more fish in the sea.”

You may be surprised to know the solution to destructive overfishing, as well as species endangerment and extinction, may not even be as difficult as cutting out seafood altogether. Fish offer a good source of heart- and brain-healthy, cancer-fighting omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins, and minerals, after all. The easiest way to prevent irreversible damage on the high seas is to simply make better seafood choices. This means choosing abundant, well managed species that are fished or farmed in environmentally friendly ways, while avoiding species that are overfished, or fished or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment.

SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD RESOURCES

Monterey Bay Aquarium Logo

Monterey Bay Aquarium provides both an online and downloadable/printable regional Seafood Watch guide complete with easy-to-read/navigate lists of recommendations and alternatives. The webpage also includes a Super Green List of wild and farmed seafood that's healthy for people and the oceans; a buyer's guide and chart of alternatives specifically for culinary chefs; and a sushi guide featuring “Best Choice[s], “Good Alternative[s],” and those to “Avoid.” Perhaps the most convenient feature offered by the site is their Seafood Watch App for Android and iPhone! It provides up-to-date recommendations for ocean-friendly seafood and sushi. The newest version includes Project FishMap, which lets you share locations of restaurants and markets where you've found sustainable seafood, as well as see what others have found near you. We simply can't say enough about the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch guide and mobile app, so you should really check them out for yourself.

Blue Ocean Institute also provides user-friendly online and downloadable/printable seafood and sushi guides. In collaboration with Environmental Defense Fund, Blue Ocean Institute also offers mobile access in a couple of different ways: cell phone and PDA users can visit www.fishphone.org to download a mobile-friendly seafood guide, or you can text ‘FISH' and the species name (e.g., tilapia, tuna, shrimp, etc.) to 30644 for instant sustainability info on the go. If your selection is on their “red” list, they'll send a message back with a “green” recommendation and other alternatives. A FishPhone app is also available for iPhones from the iTunes store, making it quick and easy to order and shop sea-friendly in a restaurant or grocery store. The Blue Ocean Institute website also features a helpful seafood Q&A section, and makes it easy for you to copy and paste a Seafood Widget to your own website or blog.

SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD STRATEGIES:

  • If you're not especially technologically inclined or don't want to bother with guides, shop for seafood that bears the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label, which discourages destructive overfishing and ensures that the fish and shellfish you purchase comes from sustainable sources.
  • Find MSC-labeled seafood at Costco (Kirkland brand); Norm Thompson; Safeway; Sam's Club; Taku Store (order online at TakuStore.com); Target (Archer Farms brand); Wal-Mart; and Whole Foods.
  • Substitute wild Alaskan salmon for farmed salmon. (Atlantic salmon in United States stores and restaurants is always farmed.)
  • If you live in or nearby New England and want to serve cod, opt for hook-caught instead of trawl-caught Atlantic cod. Those living on the West Coast should use sablefish/black cod as a replacement.
  • Instead of Pacific rockfish, grouper, snapper, orange roughy, or Patagonian toothfish (a.k.a. Chilean sea bass), substitute farmed striped bass.
  • Tilapia farmed in the United States instead of China is a tasty alternative.
  • EcoFish ( EcoFish.com) sells canned and fresh-frozen fish from ecologically sound sources.

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