5 Fish You Should Eat More Of
Stay up to date with the latest headlines via email.
Our oceans are in a perilous state. Rampant abuse and rapacity has led us down a dangerous path; stories of overfishing, toxic contamination, and ocean acidification put consumers in a state of confusion and fear at the seafood counter. Luckily, all is not lost -- by making informed choices, we can enjoy healthy, delicious seafood while supporting fishermen that are doing their utmost to work in harmony with the planet. Here are five examples of sustainable, restorative seafood options that merit our support:
First of all, I'm not talking about the unidentifiable, semi-fossilized fish paste that you find covered in oil or mustard sauce when you open up a sardine tin -- fresh sardines are a totally different animal. They are inexpensive, delectable indulgences that carry fabulous flavors, perform marvelously on a grill, and are used by top-level sushi chefs to make mouth-watering nigiri and sashimi dishes. Even better, these tiny delights are packed full of Omega-3 fatty acids while their short lifecycle keeps them relatively mercury-free. Unfortunately, we're using them in the worst possible way.
There's no excuse for the way we're treating our amazing sardine resource in this country. The vast majority of our sardines are sold to foreign bluefin tuna ranches, where they are used to fatten up juveniles that have been purloined from wild stocks. This is a problem on many levels: bluefin tuna are severely endangered, have little Omega-3 content, can be extremely high in mercury, and are exorbitantly expensive. We're using our sardines -- healthy, delicious fish that most Americans can afford -- to fuel a foreign industry that is harming the ocean in order to create a luxury good with dubious health benefits that is only available to the very wealthy.
Buying sardines from your local fish market helps to create a reward system for sardine fishermen. If the demand for these fish in the US marketplace continues to grow, our fishermen won't need to sell their entire catch (at a ridiculously low price, I might add) to a foreign bluefin ranch.
2. Wild Salmon
There are four reasons to eat wild Alaskan salmon. One -- it tastes fantastic. Two -- it's a high-Omega-3, low-mercury fish. Three -- it's a relatively sustainable industry that merits our support. And four -- the alternative, conventional farmed salmon, sucks.
Farmed salmon tends to be raised in the open-net pens situated in sheltered bays and coves. There are no controls to mitigate the flow of ocean water in and out of these pens. As such, there are tremendous problems with the transmission of diseases, parasites, genetic material, and waste from these pens to the ecosystems around them. Links between salmon farms and the degradation of wild salmon populations in places like Canada and Norway are well-established.
Also, the salmon farming industry has a real problem with antibiotic abuse. Chile, once the world's largest producer of farmed salmon, was using antibiotics at levels 300 to 400 times prescription levels. And what happens to these fish that are quite literally stuffed to the gills with antibiotics? Well... we eat them.
Wild Alaskan salmon provides a delicious alternative to all this nonsense. Thanks to progressive fishery management, we have access to a domestic product that is comparatively sustainable and healthy. To make matters even better, recent marketing efforts for previously underappreciated species like keta (chum) and sockeye have helped to make wild Alaskan salmon available at price points that are competitive with farmed products.
4. Dungeness Crab
For shellfish lovers, it is difficult to find a better option than Dungeness crab. These fisheries are extremely well-managed and have been so for decades. The crabs are caught in non-lethal traps which keep bycatch at negligible levels and allow female and juvenile crabs to be returned unharmed to the seabed. This process, whereby only mature males are taken, helps to keep Dungeness crab populations resilient and robust. Additionally, the number of crabs that can be landed during a given season is carefully measured and kept to levels that will keep populations thriving.