When we enter into a grocery store, we enter a world of infinite choices: What do you want for dinner tonight? How many calories does that bag of chips have? Which brand of spaghetti will taste the best with mom’s sauce?
Our collective food-shopping consciousness is only just becoming aware of the questions we need to ask about where our food comes from and how it’s grown. And knowing how to choose sustainable seafood can be one of the most complicated choices of all.
There are so many complicated issues involving fishing practices ranging from how fish are raised and caught to the lack of a streamlined international fishing regulations. And sometimes it seems like the rules are changing all the time as we learn new information. We talk ocean issues all day long at UBB, and sometimes even we struggle to figure everything out at once. So we thought it would be helpful for our readers to lay out some of the issues to consider when shopping for seafood. Bear in mind that there isn’t always one right answer, but these guidelines should help inform your decisions.
How- It’s important to know how your fish is being raised and caught. The two most common terms you’ll find in a grocery store are farm raised and wild caught. Many experts urge consumers to stay away from farm raised fish for human health related issues caused by pollution and toxins in these farms, and farms are often detrimental to surrounding ecosystems. But the choice isn’t always so simple as some farmed fish are better than their wild counterparts. What’s more, in oceans teeming with increasingly fewer fish, wild caught fish risk depleting populations even further. The best thing to do is be informed, and ask your fish monger about the fish you’re buying.
Who- While nearly every fish in the sea is subject to overfishing, some populations are more prone than others. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide is a great resource for looking up fish that are good choices, okay choices, and ones that you should avoid at all costs. Sometimes the same species might be a good fish or one to avoid just based on where it’s caught. For example, while the extremely popular wild caught Atlantic Salmon is red flagged, the Seafood Watch suggests Alaskan Coho Salmon as a good alternative. And the best part is that you don’t have to keep all that information in your head. All you have to do is download the free smartphone app!
What- Know what you’re buying by asking the right questions. The employees at your local grocery or fish market have a wealth of knowledge about the fish they’re selling, so use their knowledge to influence your purchasing decisions. Good questions to ask are about the fish’s age (you want them to have been old enough to reproduce), where they were caught (local sources are usually better!), how they were caught (farm vs. wild), whether they’re in season, and their status on the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch Guide.
When– Remember to buy in season. Just like produce, there are good and bad times to catch fish. And the plus side, fish in season taste better, and are usually much cheaper. The best way to find out of if a fish is in season is to ask your local fish monger!
Where– There are no hard set rules for where your fish should come from since it really depends on the fish. So while it’s different for every type of fish, do bear in mind that fisherman in the western hemisphere are generally held to higher fishing and environmental standards. America is one of the world leaders in sustainable seafood, yet Americans buy less than 5% of our fish from American fisheries. Asia, however, has some of the poorest regulations on fishing, and large amounts of our fish come from poorly managed fisheries. And fisheries aside, it’s always best to buy as local as you can to reduce your meal’s carbon footprint!
Out Of The Blue explores our company on a deep level. We look to expose our flaws and be completely transparent about how we operate our business. We encourage you to leave your thoughts in the comments section, as there is nothing more valuable than feedback - whether it be criticism or praise.
But our blog is not just about our company. Here you will find us exploring local and world issues, with specific focus on how they relate to the watery parts of our planet. You'll also find us exploring anything else on our mind! So come back often and enjoy!