Can you enjoy seafood and still take care of the planet? Here’s how to make more sustainable seafood choices.
When it comes to sustainable food choices, few topics have drawn so much controversy as seafood. From over-fishing leading to species extinction, to highly polluting fish farms releasing toxic waste into the ocean, one has to wonder – is sustainable seafood even possible?
However, a number of small fish farmers have begun to practice more sustainable seafood farming. A documentary I saw recently on one such farm explained how sustainable practices helped the farm to actually support and enhance the local ecosystem – while producing healthy and delicious fish!
Enforcement of more sustainable fishing practices have also helped to rebuild fish populations in some areas.
Here is some news from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration:
The number of fish species listed as overfished has dropped to the lowest level since 1977, according to NOAA. Only 37 stocks of fish in U.S. waters remain on the overfished list—that means 84 percent of fish species in U.S. waters are now at healthy population levels.
NOAA chalks this success up to their sustainable fishing practices—the U.S. is the global leader in fishery management. But what does sustainable fishing mean, exactly?
Long gone are the days where fishermen could take their boats out to sea and catch whatever they wanted. In 2006, Congress passed the Magnuson-Stevens Act and set annual catch limits. By giving each fishing operation an acceptable limit to catch, NOAA essentially spreads the love to all the fishermen in an area.
NOAA has also created catch shares—think of each fish as a stock, and the ocean as the stock market. Similar to catch limits, shares ensure no one fishing operation has a monopoly on a type of seafood, as well as keeping sea life from being overfished.
There are a number of resources available to help consumers make more sustainable choices. For example, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch List offers a searchable database on sustainable seafood choices. It is also available as a printed guide, or even an app for your phone, so you can easily check out that seafood entree on the menu before you order!
Here are a few seafood options you can generally choose with no qualms about your environmental impact:
– Arctic char
– Skipjack tuna
– Albacore tuna
– Pacific sardines
On the other hand, Seafood Watch encourages U.S. consumers to avoid:
– Imported crab
– Mahi mahi
– Imported squid
– Imported swordfish
– Farmed Atlantic salmon
– Imported shrimp
Lastly, as Thrive Market suggests:
Another way to manage your environmental impact on sealife—especially if you live near the coast—is to buy locally sourced seafood. Local fish tend to be fresher, and since it’s not imported, you’ll save the energy it would take to ship.