August 11th, 2011
05:00 PM ET
5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.
For many shoppers, the prospect of buying seafood is easier just to avoid altogether.
Fresh fish is often perceived to be expensive and elitist, and it can be downright confusing figuring out if the catch of the day is environmentally friendly or not.
For that, National Geographic Fellow, For Cod and Country author and chef Barton Seaver has reeled in a few tips on how to approach your next seafood purchase so you come away knowing your choice was responsible, affordable and anything but fishy.
Five Strategies for Buying Sustainable Seafood: Barton Seaver
1. Keep an eye out for eco-labels.
Yet not all sustainable seafood is MSC certified, so don’t feel like you need to limit your options to just the certified products in order to eat sustainably. This is just one strategy.
Another is to consult a seafood guide or smart-phone app (downloadable from Blue Ocean Institute or the Monterey Bay Aquarium) that provides color-coded lists of the most sustainable choices (green), good alternatives (yellow), and which unsustainable fish to avoid (red).
Granted, using these guides accurately often requires obtaining additional information about a particular fish (i.e.where it was harvested, whether it was wild or farmed, what kind of fishing gear was used, etc.), which isn’t always easy to come by - especially when you’re faced with a shrugging fish seller."
2. Look for farmed shellfish.
3. Check out your frozen seafood options.
But even if what you’re buying isn’t certified, consider these additional sustainability benefits: Frozen seafood has a lower carbon footprint, on average, than fresh seafood. It takes far less energy to ship a frozen product by barge or train than it does to fly fresh product across the country in a vat of ice.
Frozen seafood also results in less waste than fresh seafood. A significant amount of fresh fish spoils and is dumped by either the retailer, restaurant, or consumer before it can be eaten.
Finally, frozen seafood is markedly cheaper than fresh seafood."
4. Visit the canned seafood aisle.
Canned anchovies, sardines and herring are excellent and affordable sources of omega-3 fatty acids. Anchovies are great additions to homemade salad dressing, bread dips and pasta sauces. Sardines can be used to make a tasty appetizer or to liven up a green salad.
For tuna, I look for chunk white, skipjack and pole-caught varieties. And while the many of the large-scale fleets still aren’t perfect, they are an industry in transition and deserve to be supported as they strive to improve their practices."
5. Eat diversely.
If it’s summertime and your market is proudly featuring fresh harpoon-caught swordfish, then genuflect to the opportunity to eat this awesome and iconic fish. And celebrate it with family and friends. But if it’s February and that same swordfish looks like the cardboard box its been stored in for the past six months, then don’t buy it.
Choose whatever is fresh and wonderful at that time of year. Make a plan when you walk into your market not to buy fish for a preordained recipe, but rather to walk out with the best fish you can get."
Previously - Chef Rick Moonen on five fish that deserve a break
Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.
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Your post is greatest for me.I read you post .it is really nice for seafood online shops and directory. Thanking you sharing for useful news for seafood-Trade
why doesnt everybody just go out and go fishing them selfs eat what they can catch!
now thats sustainable! :) ive grown up fishing and after every trip, we keep what we will eat for the night and maybe some for friends and then always throw the rest back. this year me and my best friend have decited that every wednesday we'll go the beach! to swim, tan, and fish! and we"ll tare up the perch and catfish everytime!!!!! ill clean them and take them home and we have dinner for the family :) but i do understain not everybody has the resources to do this, but if your buying sea food, go to local markets and get it from an old fisherman and if you still cant do that, alway check where the seafood came from.
ive noticed shrimp love to be shiped here from Vietnam and thailand!
"Engrish is our language. No exetions learn it."
and the fish ate the worm! lol!
Dude...who are you? Tuna fishery is the worst, or close to it. Who is paying you? "For tuna, I look for chunk white, skipjack and pole-caught varieties. And while the many of the large-scale fleets still aren’t perfect, they are an industry in transition and deserve to be supported as they strive to improve their practices." Ha!!! The Tuna fisheries are pirates...looters. Large scale fleets=seine netters=destruction of the species within years, not decades. This message is incorrect.
Atlantic swordfish has recovered and is believed to be sustainably fished. It is one of the few successes in international fisheries management- and harpooning (all personal beliefs about how fish should or should not be killed, notwithstanding) is seen as a fairly desirable method of capture in that it has no bycatch of other species or undersized fish.
How did the harpooned swordfish phrase pass muster? Is it ok to eat swordfish now? I thought it was one of the most depleted species and many chefs and restaurants dropped it from their menus going back to the early 90's! Is swordfish really a sustainable option?
Swordfish is also one of the highest fish in Mercury in the wild. If there's a farmed version I'd love to know, because mercury free Swordfish would be awesome. Incidentally I remember when Swordfish was the fish of choice for the poor.
One thing that this article is missing is a recommendation to eat American seafood. The US has some of the strictest safety and conservation regulations in the world, and, while not perfect, our fishermen and aquafarmers have to follow them or they will be shut down. Buying foreign imports outsources the ecological problems and, for migratory fish, shifts the mortality to less regulated fleets. Demand to know the origin (country, water body, capture gear, wild/farmed) of the seafood you eat and choose ones where you have some confidence that rules exist and will be followed.
This guy looks entirely too much like Michael Bolton to be trustworthy.
And this coming from someone that uses a chain saw as a musical instrument.
This article is aimed at those who have unlimited purchase options, nearly unlimited money, and care more about 'sustainability' (as defined by a chef) than what is good for the environment or healthy for a person. Please take note that 'sustainability' in the first place is a buzzword from businesses who are trying to convince you that what they do uses no resources and has no environmental repercussions, which is certainly untrue. It means nothing in terms of environmental science. As far as what to eat, that's up to you, but to make less impact on the environment, eat lower in the food chain. This is also healthier, as the toxins that are becoming commoner in the ocean are concentrated higher in the food chain. Seaweed is good for you. Herring, anchovies and similar tiny fish feed on phytoplankton and zooplankton and therefore are low in the food chain, but still may have issues with pollution. Jelly fish are supposedly increasing n number due to overfishing; so try them. The diet of jellyfish includes everything from plankton to fish larger than themselves, but many kinds also have a symbiotic alga, or in other words they grow like plants. Finally, including coral reef animals (including the coral itself), blue whales and coelacanths in your diet can not be defended environmentally.
The comment re the "harpooned swordfish" doesn't describe what happens. To begin w, the majestic swordfish is
basking in the warmth of the sun, right at the water's surface, usually asleep. Once the fish is spotted, the boat drifts silently towards it and from the boat's long bow the harpoon is rammed into the swordfish. A cord connected to the harpoon has huge yellow round floats that the swordfish is unable to pull below the surface. This effort is what soon exhausts the fish and easily allows the boat to track the dying fish and haul it aboard. Knowing how this fish dies prevents me from EVER thinking of eating it again!
That of course has its own problems...
Don't know where he gets his info on Tuna. Sounds like this dude has never left the kitchen and seen the realities of Tuna over-harvesting first hand. And no, not everything from the ocean should be eaten. Most Tuna and predatory game fish of any type contain ALLARMING levels of mercury. It is not safe for a pregnant woman, for example, to even handle the flesh of a Bluefin Tuna. CNN, please fact-check your articles, and don't take the word of some do-gooder Chef, when many of these issues should be addressed by scientists only.
Most tuna contains non-trivial levels of mercury contamination. _Some_ tuna (particularly bluefin) contains levels on average high enough that pregnant women should avoid eating it. I've never seen anything saying they should avoid _touching_ it – we're talking about something with levels in the fractional parts per million, not a broken thermometer. Please fact check yourself before telling others to fact check themselves...
Fairly ignorant on the #2 farmed shellfish. Shellfish farming causes a variety of problems for the environment, including displacement of native species, depletion (filtering) of zooplankton, including fish eggs out of the water, reductions in levels of dissolved oxygen, habitat destruction and modification for flatfish and salmon, etc.
Shellfish farming methods in some areas (like SE Asia) can cause problems (sometimes significant ones). However, methods used in the US and other developed countries are almost always positive for the environment, leaving the water cleaner and better for other species. Your comment about habitat destruction for salmon and other fish farming (while perhaps true) is irrelevant to shellfish farming.
If we could get the world to lay off of wild fish for a couple of years and then gradually get back into them we could keep the worlds oceans stocked with delicious fish for years to come. This is an important moment. We know there is a problem, we know how to solve it and we know the results will bring us great harvests in the future. We simply lack the resolve.
the day cold-water lobster can successfully be farmed is the day I'll cheer. Sadly, here in Oklahoma fresh seafood is nearly impossible to get, and the few sources are far enough away to make them prohibitive. The lobster tanks at the local food stores (at least those that actually have them) are not kept cold enough and the lobsters are lethargic. There's no telling how many expire and are tossed out (though I suspect most of them are steamed or boiled just before death and put in an appearance in the on-ice case). Having grown up on the Chesapeake Bay and in New England, I was spoiled.. and fresh meant I usually caught it myself. How sad to see what we've done to our wild stocks in so little time....
OK last post, sorry to hog, but ocean health is so important to me.
Any info on Japan quality standards. Their floating fish factories were already a source of controversy (not just the dolphin hunts & whaling) here in Hawaii. (see above post). Nothing but rumors, conflicting reports, etc etc -An ongoing triple nuclear meltdown being flushed daily into my neck of the woods, and we keep being told chill, it's no Gulf Spill b/c we can't see it? -we still get their fish shipped here. (even from stocks we've legislated to leave alone.)
Mahalo. You have nothing to worry about concerning the nuclear reactors. It was almost entirely contained and the tiny bit that leaked out was equivalent to nothing. There's a lot of radiation (not radioactive materials) emitted from the cores, yes, but the spill of actual materials out is stopped. I work in a Nuc Med department and I can tel you that the whole reporting of radioactive materials spills was rediculous. Now those Japanese longliners and factory ships, they will help kill all life in the oceans. Be very worried about those.
I cut way back on seafood because of overfishing. Shellfish info is interesting but I have no desire to eat or cook something that is alive especially since it doesn't look appetizing at all. Good to know there is so much information about seafood though to help make better decisions.
Have to add color to farm raised salmon? Something wrong.
Completely disagree with this entire article. First, farmed shellfish is very high in mercury and other toxins. As a filter feeder, raising shellfish in a dense environment concentrates toxins. Possibly the worst case of all are those raised in close proximity to modern cities.
Second, stay away from the canned seafood aisle – particularly the canned tuna, salmon, and shellfish. Tuna is extremely overfished, so you should always avoid tuna, plus its extremely high in mercury. Wild salmon is overfished, while farmed salmon concentrate toxins in the same way as farmed shellfish. Steer clear of all salmon.
Finally, eating diversely – without information – is a bad idea. It just means we'll eventually gobble up everything. For example, Chilean Sea Bass might look good on the menu – but its overfished and a threatened species that you should avoid. It's better than you pick a few known good sources of fish from well managed fisheries.
And always remember, the bigger the fish – the higher the mercury content, so try to stay with the smallest fish you can find, sardine, herring, and the like.
Avoid big fish like tuna, salmon, and cod. Avoid filter feeders. Avoid anything farmed and anything overfished. Yes, that doesn't leave much.
No, it doesn't leave much. Any sources of current info to know which species are plentiful, in the most trouble?
-Which farming works, which does not (tossing dead animals to crabs in swimming pools in SE Asia is Not what I want to eat!).
This article was great in that this is Never covered, but did contradict in places and was too brief for something too critical to this planet.
Your comments would be more compelling if they were more accurate. Farmed shellfish from the developed world is generally very clean and low in mercury. None is farmed near big cities. Bluefin tuna is massively overfished (and is often high in mercury), but many other tuna species (when fished properly, mostly meaning not by longline or purse seine) are managed well, and not nearly as high in mercury. Wild Alaskan salmon is _not_ overfished – it is a very well managed and controlled fishery, and mercury isn't a major concern. (Other wild salmon is less good, and farmed salmon (except from closed system, which is fine) should be avoided.) Eating diversely as suggested in this article doesn't mean eating randomly – he specifically mentions the Monterey Aquarium guide in selecting things – it means to not confine yourself to a single type of seafood, which also has the benefit of lowering pressure on specific species.
Some of what you say here is valid, but making dogmatic statements – especially when they aren't supported by the facts – doesn't help the cause...
I thought this was a well written and informative piece. Plus, I sure would like to have that guy in my kitchen!
Although I believe his intention is well meant, I think this is an irresponsible article. Disappointing.
A plug for an amazing company that sells nothing about sustainable seafood:
I would definitely check them out - I've had a bunch of seafood from them before and can vouch for the quality. They adhere to the Monterey Bay guidelines. Disclaimer – I know the owner.
TY Matt. info is empowering. People can check it out, then decide for ourselves.
I Beyond Love seafood (was raised by commercial fishermen) -but will not take part in ocean destruction, and ended up boycotting all, not knowing how to maneuver this.
Sure, eat as much seafood as you can, and when you start coming down with a laundry list of mysterious physical and mental health problems in a decade or two due to the mercury accumulated in your body, the memories of all those wonderful seafood dinners will comfort you.
True, many pregnant women I've known here in Hawaii are completely unaware that they are to avoid seafood due to mercury damage to their fetus. They think their doctors advice is hype. It's not.
If you are in the Houston area here is a great 'total catch' (including bycatch) fish market!
OK, more people are boycotting seafood due to the crisis level depletion of stocks (tuna in particular), and by-catch deaths of endangered species (turtles, false orcas). My family stopped purchasing seafood for these reasons. Zero mention of foreign floating fish factory impact -and how to legislate, boycott.
ie, in Hawaii, we have ahi restrictions due to depletion, so now they're imported from Philippines and Japan -same stocks being harvested to extinction. (huh?) We also have a good plan w/ fishermen to switch hooks used on mile lines, easier for endangered by-catch to escape.
The world's fishing fleet is considered to be TWO AND A HALF TIMES GREATER than what the oceans can sustain. This article is a welcomed start. (So happy to get a 'green' light on the farmed shelfish -will buy some Today) -but much more in depth reporting here is needed. We gave up our beloved seafood out of moral, social obligation.
Yeah, read "Tuna: A love Story". I did and it was very eye-opening. Those tuna ranches are wild-caught tuna herded into sea pens for fattening over two years, just like cattle at a feedlot. None of those animals ever breed in their lifetime because they are captured as juveniles and don't breed in the pens. It is total depletion.
Suggesting people eat farmed seafood is not responsible. Does this guy have any idea what farmed seafood is fed or how it's raised? Check it out. You don't want to be eating farmed seafood.
Farm Raised and Environmentally Friendly. Check it out.
Farmed shellfish are a very different thing than farmed salmon. Shellfish are often colonies, are filter feeders, and prosper when conditions (tide, salinity, temperature) can be maintained more-or-less stably. People have been farming oysters and mussels for centuries....the Chinese and Romans figured it out, and found that the water was better off for other species because of having supported the filter feeders. Just try not to spill oil or dump a concentration of farming pesticide/fertilizer nearby too often.
Yeah, it's definitely better to rape the planet and destroy wild populations than eating farmed food.
No mention of aquaponics? Not only is it sustainable and non-polluting, but doubles as an organic farm. Keep an eye out for aquaponics-farm raised salmon due to hit the market this year. It is the only farm raised salmon approved by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Because sustainable farmed salmon is sustainable awful seafood. Like the chef said, go with shellfish. There's really no difference between farmed and wild shellfish. Anything high on the food chain is usually going to be inferior when farmed, both in taste and nutrition. No reason to get something inferior (farmed salmon) when you can get something that's as good as their wild counterparts.
Cole, farmed is the same as wild in terms of nutrition. The meat is exactly the same. Depletion of wild stocks to satisfy your elitist opinion is why this planet is going to hell in a handbasket. It isn't always what you'd prefer, anyway. It's about what is sustainable because when the wild populations are gone (read: Atlantic cod, haddock, flounder, most sharks, bluefin tuna), they are GONE. Get with the program.
Farmed salmon is fatty compared to wild caught. Farmed salmon also tends to concentrate certain types of toxins that wild caught doesn't, simply because of their diet. I still eat it, just not as often as I'd like.
What Pragmaclast said.
The only way for farmed to be the same as wild is for them to have the exact same diet. This happens with creatures that are on the low end of the food chain, such as shellfish. But, it's never going to happen with things higher up on the food chain, such as salmon. It's not going to happen because, for the time being, it doesn't make economic sense. For you to break even, you'd have to charge more than what wild salmon goes for. There's no market for such a product.
To say that the flesh from farmed salmon is the same as the flesh from wild salmon is like saying that Choice graded Angus is the same as Prime graded Wagyu. Yeah, they're the same in that they're both beef. The similarities pretty much end there.
how can this article be written and not mention Whole Foods Market's sustainability index in their stores?
Seriously? Whole Foods? I know they started as a great natural foods market, but now they are nothing more than a nicer, overpriced traditional grocery store. They only care about image and the bottom line; they do not care about the environment. They know that their patrons worship them like a cult, drop tons of money there, and they will continue to exploit that. Stick with your local co-op, ask them what is sustainably raised and caught.
Please look at the quality standards of wfm v. your local co-op.
Simple. Many Americans live nowhere near a Whole Foods. Also, they are a very urban phenomenon and don't exactly represent the purity they advertise.Please understand that just because you have a Whole Foods within 100 miles of you doesn't mean we all do.....or care.
I appreciate both comments regarding WFM.....I understand they don't exist in every market, but from what I understand they are growing and have plans to operate over 1000 stores some day. They started with a vision and have brought that vision (mostly uncorrupted) to a large scale and with a degree of harmony that most corporations can not achieve. It is difficult to retain core values while such expansion occurs, but they are a corporation that has the welfare of the environment and the community in mind....perhaps not to your desired level, but way beyond almost every single corporation that exists today. Regarding the sustainability index for seafood.....does Kroger have one of these? Wal-Mart, any other corporate grocer?
Buy wild salmon.
I'm listening. Why do you say that?
Wild catfish is about the only way to get it now in the South, and the 'health' of the fish depends entirely on the quality standards of the farm.
No mention here (Write a follow up -heck, weekly column re eco food stocks.) on how to tell farmed fish quality, better than wild-caught, or so overcrowded it's loaded w/ disease fighters, etc.
meant 'farmed' catfish -rarely see it fresh caught, and that was for a decade b/f the hurricane damages and oil spill
and stay away from that genetically modified salmon when it comes to market.
He lost me at tuna. Tuna is being depleted at an alarming level. Being from Louisiana, I always buy fresh. Most of the time it is literally fresh off the boat.
Right on, didn't see you post until after mine below re the tuna crisis.
My family has boycotted so much out of social/moral obligation, thinking of future generations and ocean health now. I am happy to start to see some reporting on this. WE LOVE SEAFOOD! -but not enough to destroy the oceans getting it. Tell us what's happening (not from the $$ angle) -and what we need to do to ocean harvest responsibly, and I'm there.
Billy, a question. Honestly, how is the Gulf seafood doing? I don't trust the industry's & government's reassurances one bit (nor BP's). The Coerxit 'dispersants' are still killing the dolphins as still births, etc etc. Are you saying some areas are better off, some species, etc. Up until the Gulf Spill LA was EIGHTY PERCENT of our nation's seafood, yet narry any national press re its condition.
How much of this article is opinion vs. fact. I think the author stayed too far into poetic license.
This is why I really like to catch my own seafood. Eliminates lots of steps in the process.