We’re told to eat less meat and more fish, but that has gotten complicated. What fish have contaminants like mercury, and which fish species are endangered due to overfishing? How do we balance our need and desire to consume fish with protecting ocean life?
The Monterey Bay Aquarium tells us that of all the factors negatively affecting our ocean ecosystem, none has as great an impact as fishing. Scientists estimate that we have removed 90% of the large predatory fish such as swordfish, cod and shark. Over-fishing the smaller fish upsets the delicate balance of the food chain. Many of the small fish are not the target but get caught in the fishing nets and are just discarded.
- Know what you eat – Carry a wallet size fish guide, or download an app to your smart phone. I learned that my favorite Chilean sea bass is almost non-existent due to intense illegal fishing. The sea bass live a long life which means they reproduce late in life. They need to live long enough to be allowed to procreate! Get a Seafood Watch Pocket Guide or the app.
- The Environmental Defense Fund recommends eating more small fish, and a wide variety of them: mackerel, sardines, oysters to name a few. The lower on the food chain one eats the less of an impact. Mixing it up also helps avoid too much of any one contaminant.
- Buy your seafood from fisheries using non-destructive fishing techniques. Quiz your fish market about where their fish comes from.
- Keep informed by reading up on overfishing. Check out http://see-the-sea.org for clear explanations and graphics. This New York Times article is very reader-friendly.
- Spread the word about the ‘silent collapse’ of our ocean ecosystem.
- Eat wild fish after making sure it’s sustainable. Farmed fish are often treated with antibiotics and pesticides that not only pollute the oceans, but enter your system as well. Wild Alaskan salmon is a great choice as Alaskan salmon fisheries have been certified by the Marine Council as sustainable and well-managed. Other good choices are black cod, sablefish or butterfish.
- Pacific halibut is another guilt-free menu item safe to order. It is fished using bottom long-lines that cause little habitat damage and incur low levels of accidental catch.
- Greenpeace has a Supermarket Seafood Score Card which tells us which supermarkets are doing the most for the sustainable seafood market and which ones are not.