There’s something fishy going on here.
Lots of people are reducing their intake of red meat and turning to fish as a main protein source. This time of year, some religious folks give up meat on Fridays (which is today!). Others choose to pass on red meat because studies link its consumption to a variety of scary diseases and cancers.
So if you’re ready to dive in to seafood, we’ve got some pointers to help you make choices that don’t stink.
There actually are NOT plenty of fish in the sea
“I am a nice shark, not a mindless eating machine.” You could do worse than to follow these words of wisdom from Bruce, Anchor, and Chum. They’re our favorite friends from Finding Nemo.
Experts estimate that 3 billion people rely on fish as their primary protein source. Yet, according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization, 85% of marine fish stocks are either overfished or completely exploited. A 2015 report by the World Wildlife Fund said that populations of large fish (like tuna, mackerel, and bonito) had fallen by almost 75 percent just since the 1970s.
Shockingly, many fisheries actually discard more fish than they keep—known as “bycatch” it means that a lot of fish are killed while trying to catch target species (bycatch pictured below).
There’s no way the math adds up to enough fish for everyone.
But consumer pressure has made it easier for all of us to make smart seafood choices.
By the sea, by the sea
The solution is to seek out seafood that’s sustainably sourced and certified (only *slightly* easier to say than “She sells seashells…”).
Groups like the Marine Stewardship Council (https://www.msc.org/), Friend of the Sea (http://www.friendofthesea.org/), This Fish (http://thisfish.info) and others say that sustainable seafood has massively grown in the last decade. Sustainable fisheries now account for 14% of worldwide seafood production, up from 0.5% in 2005. In even better news, sustainable seafood production is growing 10 times faster than conventional seafood.
So where do you start? Whether you are dining out or buying fresh, it’s all about doing your research.
You should always ask, “Is your seafood harvested sustainably?” If the question makes your server or the person behind the counter squirm, then, as Dory says, “Just keep swimming.”
If you’re buying canned or frozen fish, look for labels and certification. The Marine Stewardship Council is the only one recognized by the Global Sustainable Seafood Initiative (GSSI). (Dolphin side note: Dolphin Safe does NOT mean sustainable. It does mean, however, that no dolphins were netted, circled, or killed while harvesting the seafood. Which, frankly, we don’t think should EVER be the case.)
Cast your shopping net for sustainable fish!
Here are some sustainable seafood brands and stores to shop sustainably (click the links):
Here are a few guides to help your seafood sustainability search:
Sustainable Seafood Restaurant Finder (http://www.fishchoice.com/fishchoice-unveils-sustainable-seafood-restaurant-finder)—covers more than 30 states and nearly 400 restaurants
Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch (www.montereybayaquarium.org/SeafoodWatch) —the big Kahuna of sustainable seafood info
No matter where you buy it, don’t forget Ben Franklin’s quote: Guests, like fish, begin to smell after three days. So don’t let either one hang around for too long.