Sustainable Seafood

Now, I've said before, I'm not out to make this a "food" blog.  But we all eat.  And how and what we eat can make a pretty big impact on our world.  So it's important.
Now, I've never been a huge fan of eating things that swim -or generally live in water at all- though I've often wished that I were.  For those of you who do eat seafood, are you aware of all the Ethical Eating issues associated with it?

Via: Roots Restaurant

Many of our favorite species of fish are being harvested at unsustainable rates, and some fish communities are in serious danger of collapse.  Today, a full 75% of major fisheries are overfished.  The top predators in the food-chain are often the most popular eats, so they're the first to go.  When fishing these species becomes too difficult, fishers move down the food chain, eliminating essential prey for those large predators.  It's a vicious cycle.  Farmed fish generally tend to be a better choice than wild-caught, in terms of overfishing.

How some of these fish are being harvested often ends up also harvesting "innocent by-swimmers".  This bycatch is typical of large net and longline styles of fishing.  Hook and line fishing is the least likely to produce bycatch, as unwanted species can be quickly released, unharmed.  Shrimp, one of our favorite eats, is one of the largest producers of bycatch. (The best types of shrimp to buy/eat, can be found here.)

Then there's the matter of what else is lurking in that tasty fish your eating.  Mercury.  Many of our waterways and fisheries are contaminated with this heavy metal.  Mercury is released into the air through industrial pollution.  It eventually "falls" into the water, where it becomes methyl mercury.  This substance is easily absorbed by the fish, as they feed, and by humans, as we feed on fish.  Nearly ALL fish have some level of mercury.  Children and pregnant women are cited by the EPA and FDA as the most vulnerable populations, but there is a faction of the medical (western and alternative) community that believes that mercury and other heavy metals in our bodies can lead to everything from fibromyalgia to autism.  Generally speaking, the higher you go up the fishy foodchain, the higher the mercury levels of that fish.

Via: TN State Dept of Health
Species generally considered to be low in mercury (by the FDA and EPA) are shrimp, canned light tuna, salmon, pollock, and catfish.

So what's a seafood lover to do?

The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a host of resources to educate yourself, including a pocket guide to sustainable seafood species, as well as an iphone app!

Consider joining The Daily Green in their boycott of Bluefin Tuna.  This popular sushi species is consistently listed as one of the eco-worst!

Most importantly, don't dispair.  As with most of our choices, a healthy dollop of informed consumerism can lead to a greener, more sustainable lifestyle.


  1. Great post. I'm all for educating yourself on food choices.

  2. Thank you for another reason that I don't eat seafood!