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Sustainable Seafood: 4 tips for choosing an ocean-friendly catch

Posted by Meg Stout on Apr 11, 2013
Tags: green tips

As warm weather rolls around, you may be daydreaming about clam bakes, grilled salmon, and long days on the beach. But do you know if the seafood on your plate is sustainable?

Luckily, it’s easy to find out, thanks to the handy guides from Seafood Watch. They even offer a smartphone app. Whether you live in the Deep South, the Upper Midwest, or Hawaii, there’s detailed regional information to help you pick a meal that’s better for the planet.

What seafood should everyone avoid? GOOD Magazine lists five species that we’re “eating to death”: sea urchins, bluefin tuna, sharks, Chilean sea bass, and orange roughy. Farmed salmon, U.S. Atlantic cod, and imported shrimp should also be crossed off your list, among others.

But if the details seem overwhelming, remember these four basic tips:

1. Keep it close to home

In most cases, it’s preferable to choose domestic U.S. seafood over imported versions. Not only are U.S. fish stocks better regulated, they can also be safer for your health. Less than 2 percent of imported seafood is inspected, and traces of banned antibiotics and other harmful substances have been detected in samples.

Learn more: Why Is the FDA Inspecting So Little Imported Seafood?

2. Know your fishmonger

Surprisingly, large chain supermarkets fared better in Oceana’s study of seafood fraud than smaller grocery stores. Sushi restaurants had the worst record—100 percent of the sites tested in New York City mislabeled at least one species! When purchasing seafood, ask your fishmonger detailed questions about how and where it was caught. If possible, join a community-supported fishery.

Learn more: Bait to Plate: Avoid the Fishy Business of Seafood Fraud

3. Go lower on the food chain

Small fish like mackerel are at less risk for overfishing than their larger counterparts. Better still, they are less likely to harbor harmful levels of mercury. Certain types of shellfish, such as farmed mussels, are a great choice too.

Learn more: A Guide to Sustainable Shellfish & Seafood

4. Catch your own

If you’re lucky to live near a lake, river, or the ocean, catching your own fish is a great way to ensure that it's sustainable. By purchasing a fishing license, you will help fund the preservation of your regional watersheds. And you can guarantee no foul play by following Fish and Game regulations. Best of all, it’s a great way to connect with your ecosystem (and gain some bragging rights!).

Learn more: Top 5 Sustainable Fishing Practices


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