Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Making the Right Choice: Sustainable Seafood

 A Thai shrimp farm

Our seas are losing their great diversity with the ever depleting supply of seafood.  We have been told that we should add fish to our diets for better health, but then there are concerns with issues like mercury, PCBs and over-fishing.  How does a consumer know what is safe to eat?

There are many fish that you can feel safe eating without any of the guilt of doing damage to the environment.  One major fish to avoid is Bluefin Tuna.  Popular in sushi restaurants, it is good to avoid on two fronts.  One: studies have found that these very large predatory fish often have levels of mercury exceeding the FDA's "action level" for mercury.  Two: bluefin tuna are severely overfished.  You can go to the Environmental Defence Fund website where they maintain a list of seafood health alerts.  They also have a great sushi eco-rating list.

Companies like Fresh Direct are becoming more aware of their consumers desires to make better decisions when it comes to buying seafood.  Much of their seafood now display sustainability ratings.  Seafood is rated from light green (ocean-friendly) to red (could use significant improvement).

You should also look at things like where your seafood is coming from.  With some fish it is better to go with wild caught like salmon.  But other times it is better to go with the farm raised like catfish.  Also take into consideration what country the seafood may have come from.  American farm raised shrimp is a much better choice over imported shrimp.

Of course, when you are out shopping at the grocery store it can be a little harder to pick what may be the best seafood right off the top of your head.  That is why Monterey Bay Aquarium now has a consumer wallet guide that you can download and keep with you to help you make the best choice.  Also check out the Marine Stewardship Council for more information.

Low Risk
- Farmed clams, mussels, oysters and bay scallops
- Alaska salmon
- Striped bass
- Pacific cod
- Albacore tuna
- Crawfish
- Squid
- Pacific soles
- Catfish
- King and Spanish mackerel
- Shrimp, U.S.-farmed
- Tilapia
- Dungess, imitation, kona and stone crabs
- Pacific halibut
Some Problems
- Black seabass
- Blue, snow, jonah and king crabs
- Lingcod
- Mahi mahi
- Sea scallops
- Spiny dogfish, thresher and mako sharks
- Atlantic flounders and soles
Abundant Problems
- Groupers
- Orange roughy
- Chilean seabass
- Rockfish
- Atlantic cod
- Snappers
- Shrimp, imported
- Farmed (Atlantic) Salmon
- Swordfish
- Sharks, imported
- Bigeye, yellowfin and blue-fin tuna

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