We were away last week on Earth Day and missed publishing this piece on sustainable seafood. But it’s important to be conscious of it every day of the year.
Earth Day, initiated on April 22, 1970 and celebrated annually, is widely credited with launching the modern environmental movement. The passage of the landmark Clean Air Act, Clean Water Act, Endangered Species Act and many other groundbreaking environmental laws soon followed.
There are many things each of us can do to “save the planet” and its precious resources. Today, we’ll raise some awareness about your seafood choices.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations reports that 80% of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited, with the stock overfished, depleted or recovering from depletion. With seafood growing in demand, it’s critical to get on board to reverse this trend and build a more responsible seafood supply chain.
You can do your part by purchasing sustainable seafood, both for home consumption and at restaurants. Here’s your best resource for understanding what’s sustainable:
Grilled octopus is a favorite of many, but it’s
not a sustainable seafood. Instead, consider
squid (calamari). Photo courtesy Scarpetta
Restaurant | Beverly Hills.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program works to transform the seafood market in ways that support ocean-friendly fishing and fish-farming operations. Seafood Watch provides science-based seafood recommendations through its website, pocket guides and phone apps to consumers, chefs and wholesale seafood buyers.
Take a minute to download the app or a printable pocket guide, or simply check out your seafood of choice on the website.
Some retailers and restaurateurs act sustainably, by offering only sustainable choices and/or displaying the color-coded sustainability ratings. Whole Foods, for example, does both and no longer carries red-rated species. Other retailers and restaurants give consumers what they want, regardless of how it impacts the environment or the future of the species. For the most part, it’s up to you to ask or look it up.
FOLLOW THE RATINGS
There are independent, nonprofit organizations (see below)that constantly monitor the species and rate them as to sustainability. What is sustainable changes on an ongoing basis, due to the wax and wane of the seafood stock and environmental conditions. These ratings apply to both wild-caught and farmed fish:
Green label means the best choice: The species is abundant and caught in environmentally friendly ways.
Yellow label is a good alternative: There are some concerns about the health of their habitat or catch methods for the species. (But you could act even more sustainably and go for the green.)
Red label means avoid: The species suffers from overfishing or the current fishing methods harm other marine life or habitats. Take a pass on these species for now.
The guides also provide alternatives for red-rated species. For example:
Seared ahi (yellowfin) tuna is extremely
popular. That’s one reason why it’s
overfished and on the “avoid” list. Photo
courtesy Ruth’s Chris Steak House.
Instead of Atlantic halibut, choose Pacific halibut.
Instead of grey sole, choose the yellow-rated Dover sole.
Instead of octopus, choose calamari (squid), which is green-or yellow-rated depending on the fishery.
Instead of sturgeon, choose responsibly farmed trout.
Instead of imported wild-caught shrimp, choose domestic wild-caught shrimp, which are green- or yellow-rated depending upon the location.
Instead of red-rated swordfish, choose swordfish from MSC-certified fisheries, such as harpoon fisheries in Nova Scotia or the Florida handline/landline fisheries.
Instead of turbot, choose Pacific halibut.
Instead of yellowfin (ahi) tuna, choose green-rated tuna from Maldives.
Instead of skate wing, choose yellow-rated Atlantic flounder.
So make ocean-friendly choices. By purchasing seafood that is green or yellow rated, you will enjoy something delicious and feel good that you’re doing your part to ensure the supply of seafood for future generations.
The Marine Stewardship Council is the world’s leading certification for sustainable seafood. It’s a non-governmental organization using a multi-stakeholder, international certification program to provide incentives for fisheries to address key issues such as overfishing and bycatch.
The Blue Ocean Institute focuses on conservation by studying ocean changes around the world, and what those changes mean for marine life as well as humans.
Learn more about sustainability from these two rating organizations:
Here are more ways to subtly change your diet to save our planet.