Written by Helen Packer
About a week ago, the UK government recommended we eat two portions of sustainably-sourced seafood a week. Now what the #$#!@ does that mean? Here are 5 tips on how to eat seafood that’s good for you AND the planet….
But first, let’s rewind a bit. Less than 100 years ago, we thought our oceans had an infinite supply of seafood. We learned the hard way that wasn’t the case with the infamous collapse of the Newfoundland cod fishery off the East Coast of Canada. So what exactly is sustainable seafood? Put simply, fish populations are like crops. And like crops, they need seeds to keep producing each year which, in the case of fish, means we need to make sure there are enough Mama and Papa fishies in the water to produce next year’s generation. That’s step one.
We also need to let enough baby fish grow to maturity so that they are also able to reproduce. Then it starts to get complicated. Some fish species can start reproducing after a few months, and others need years. About 25% of fish stocks are overfished and 55% are fully exploited. This means that we are approaching the maximum amount of seafood that can be taken out of our seas. This also means we increasingly have to look at alternatives, such as farmed seafood, to meet the demand of an increasing world population. However, farmed seafood also has its drawbacks, and should also be checked for sustainability.
5 TIPS ON HOW TO EAT SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD
- KNOW THE LABEL
For wild caught seafood, the Marine Stewardship Council logo is the most recognized label for sustainable seafood. For farmed seafood, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council logo is the best choice. These labels are based on strong checking systems to ensure that your seafood has been caught sustainably. When in doubt, go for these:
2. FIND OUT WHERE TO SHOP
According to a recent study, you can be pretty confident about buying your seafood at Sainsbury’s, Waitrose or Lidl to find sustainable products. When in the US, your best choise is Whole Food, Wegmans, Hy-Vee and Safeway.
3. GET CONNECTED
In the UK, the best seafood guide is the Good Fish Guide. You can either download the app on your phone or download and print the pocket guide. In the US, your best bet is the Seafood Watch guide, who also have a great app and a pintable guide, depending on which state you live in.
4. WHO ARE YOU EATING?
By simply asking where your seafood is coming from, you can shape demand for fish that has been caught in a sustainable way. Fish mongers and restaurants don’t generally use labels, but this doesn’t mean that their seafood isn’t sustainable. Don’t be afraid to ask about how the seafood was caught and where it’s coming from. A good chef or fish monger should always know, and be able to share that information with you. Of if you don’t feel like asking, you (in the UK and Europe) can check how well your favorite restaurant is doing on this website. For folks in the US, the Seafood watch app also provides some recommendations on sustainable seafood restaurants. But remember, if they aren’t listed, it doesn’t necessarily mean they are not sustainable. That’s for you to find out!
5. THERE ARE OTHER FISH IN THE SEA (EXPLORE OTHER SPECIES!)
We tend to eat a lot of tuna, shrimp, salmon, cod and then maybe the occasional shellfish or herring here and there. Due to a very high demand, these species are heavily fished (sometimes overfished) or farmed in an intensive way that is harmful to the environment. However, there are many other species that are perfectly good to eat but somehow remain largely unknown. If you live in the US, here’s a list of a few lesser known species you may want to try.
If you live in the UK, here are some alternatives to try: Pollock, Coley and Hake instead of Cod or Haddock; Trout instead of Salmon; Avoid Bluefin and Bigeye tuna for the more sustainable Yellowfin or Skipjack tunas; Replace your Shrimp with Crab.
Bonus Tip: Here are some sustainable seafood restaurants in London: