Saturday, April 14, 2012

Fishing for Sustainable Seafood

Fish and seafood are a big part of our diet for being a low calorie source of protein and omega-3s, and frankly, for being downright delicious. From grilling to baking to pan searing, seafood dinners at our house are some of the quickest and easiest in my meal repertoire.

But just like meats from land-based animals, not all fish is created equal. As more doctors and diets have touted the benefits of fish, the protein has risen in popularity. And, just like our demands for chicken, pork and beef have created horrifying agriculture conditions, aquaculture is experiencing similar problems.

Many fish are now farm-raised in tightly packed living conditions, eating a slurry of corn and other ag and animal bi-products, and being pumped full of antibiotics to survive in unnatural and disease-ridden aquacultures. Many wild caught species are overfished or fished in ways that harm other marine life or habitats. Finally, many of our fish is flown in from places like Ecuador, Thailand and New Zealand, where regulations and conditions may not be as strict and where the sheer distance from consumers in the U.S. requires greater fuel consumption and resources to transport it.

For years, my husband and I have almost exclusively purchased wild-caught fish. For us, the slightly higher price is a fair tradeoff for protein that has lived and consumed in its natural habitat and hasn’t been pumped full of hormones and antibiotics to survive. And, more recently, we have almost exclusively purchased fish that have been caught in the U.S. or Canada to ensure freshness and to reduce our impact on the environment.

But just last week we got an even bigger education on fish sourcing when Whole Foods announced that as of Earth Day (April 22), they will no longer sell red-rated wild-caught fish in their seafood departments. What does red-rated fish mean? Here’s a quick breakdown:

Two non-profit organizations, the Blue Ocean Institute and the Monterey Bay Aquarium, have created a color-coded sustainability rating system to help consumers make informed choices when choosing wild-caught seafood.

Green /Best Choice: species are abundant and caught in environmentally friendly ways.

Yellow/Good Alternative: species with some concerns about their status or catch methods.

Red/Avoid: species suffer from overfishing or the current fishing methods harm other marine life or habitats.

For the full story and a listing of the fish Whole Foods will no longer carry, visit their blog:

Even if Whole Foods isn’t in your town or in your budget, big grocers like Kroger and Safeway are jumping on the bandwagon to offer sustainable, wild-caught fish to consumers. Currently, Kroger provides information like country of origin and method of catch on its top 20 wild-caught species, and has set a goal to source 100% of its wild-caught species from MSC certified fisheries by 2015. Safeway has implemented similar measures and is working on reducing its sale of red-rated wild-caught fish with the help of organizations like FishWise and Greenpeace.

Before you bring home your next catch, ask your local grocer for recommendations on their most sustainable wild-caught fish and tips on how to prepare it.


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  1. Thanks for the input. It is hard to keep up. You should check out the Cornucopia Institute.

    1. Thanks for the tip on the Cornucopia Institute. I wasn't familiar with it. What a great resource!