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Food!Life StuffTreehugger Stuff

All about fish!

Top 10 Most Sustainable Fish To Eat

Arctic Char (farmed)
Yeah! Good salmon and rainbow trout substitute here kids. And the land-based, closed system farming methods don’t strain the marine environment or promote infections to wild species. Yum!

Catfish (US farmed)
US catfish farms are sustainable, closed system, grain fed wonders. Their farming has been monitored and uses low-pollution methods, recycled resources and even humane killing practices. I wouldn’t try it literally, but it’s a feel good fish for the most part. There is some worry about predatory birds attracted to these farms and being (how shall we say) “discouraged” illegally. But for now, eat up. Fried is nice.

Clams, Mussels, Oysters (farmed)
Now this is pretty cool. These shellfish farms are actually beneficial to the environment! Because they filter water, they remove nitrogen (the cause of massive plankton blooms from runoff). They provide essential habitat for other marine plants and animals. And they taste good. That last one is pretty key to my ideas of conservation.

Halibut: Pacific
Two good things about Pacific Halibut. There’s a lot of’m. There should continue to be because the International Pacific Halibut Commission (IPHC), a joint United States-Canada organization, regulates fishing. There is some mercury concern, but hey- nobody’s perfect.

Lobster: Spiny (US)
It’s a rock… rock lobster! You know where it never rains? In Southern California, that’s right. And that’s where these are being raised under good management overseen and approved by The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Get me one. Oh god, butter!!

Pollock (Wild Alaskan)
It’s mild, white flaky and lovely. It’s what they make that fake crabmeat out of and versatile as all get out. Mid-water trawling catches them and according to the National Marine Fisheries Service, the Alaskan Pollock is being managed sustainably!! In fact, here’s a stolen factoid from seafoodchoices.com I really like “The Alaska Pollock fishery accounts for the largest supply of consumable fish in the world.” Oh yes, this is your fried fish sandwich at the drive through. Or whatever else you want to make.

Salmon (Wild Alaska)
The wild salmon of Alaska are babies. I don’t mean that literally, but they are being eyeballed, studied, managed with care and catered to – which is awesome. These Coho or Silver Salmon are considered sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and very good for you. Go Omega!!

Scallops: Bay (farmed)
Scallops are kinky – they grow on suspensions. Which is good, because wild harvesting brutally dredged the ocean floor. New England and Canada have the best. Avoid Calico scallops – those are disappearing fast and not just from dinner tables.

Sturgeon, Caviar (farmed)
It’s been called an “environmentally friendly alternative to eating the eggs of an endangered species.” I speak of the Beluga. Who could kill such a thing? Which reminds me, snobs who know – some PREFER this caviar. They just had to try it first.

Tilapia (US farmed)
Smart folks. These are environmentally secure farms that manage water and waste well, even incorporating other species to that end. Chinese and Taiwanese farms however – not so good. Ask the question.

Trout: Rainbow (farmed)
Well regulated and monitored these are good choices. With butter. Actually with onions, peppers and a bit of garlic then butter. Oh my god, I’m drooling!!

Tuna: Albacore (US), Skipjack (troll/pole)
Tuna is touchy for some people. I know. You luuuuuuuuv it. So the least you can do is pay attention to rescuing it. No bluefin. Just don’t be that person. Troll and pole caught skipjack is awesome. Yellowfin is nice. Do you want to be around when the last bluefin is gone?

Top 10 Fish to Avoid

Chilean Sea Bass
Just don’t do it. It’s a white fish that’s versatile, but so is halibut just stick to the Pacific kind. This poor ugly fellah is about to disappear.

Remember what I said about how scary the CDC site can be – recently 10 people died from tainted Grouper due to an algae toxin. Tilapia is similar, get that instead.

These sad, ugly bottom feeders are actually a range of fish that have been over fished. But on the bright side, you should avoid due to mercury levels as well. It’s also been mentioned that some dangerously inedible fish are being “passed off” as monkfish. Just steer clear!

Orange Roughy (Good Ol’ Slimehead)
If the name hasn’t turned you off, maybe this will. This deep-sea fish ages very slowly and reaches maturity (breeding) at 30 years of age. Due to trawling, we may not have deep-sea fish for long. There is NO SUSTAINABLE way to fish for deep-sea fish. Halibut will do nicely as a substitute – but remember, Pacific only!

Salmon (Farmed/Atlantic)
First of all, they’re fed god knows what and taste blander than their wild counterparts. Second, they boast 10X the PCBs. But that’s not all, because of the floating pens the spread parasites and diseases to the ocean and other fish. Meanwhile, the Atlantic wild salmon is almost gone – literally. Wild Pacific Salmon taste good. Eat those instead. You’re paying for a privilege of healthier oceans and food.

Sharks are magnificent. But if that isn’t enough to stop you. Consider this. The food chain. When you remove a top predator, it fails. These gorgeous toothy guys are being harvested for everything from cosmetics to virility myths. Humans kill over 100 million sharks worldwide each year.

Swordfish (Imported)
First off, longline fishing kills other species; they call it “bycatch.” So that’s bad. But when the FDA warns older, infirm and pregnant people about a mercury level in something – it kinda loses its appeal to me. You? At one point – in addition – President Clinton almost made it illegal to catch or import Swordfish. You want a steak fish? Have a nice Albacore Tuna instead.

Tilefish (Gulf of Mexico/South Atlantic)
Also sold as “golden bass” or “golden snapper” the Tilefish is also a top of the food chain predator. Which means it’s balancing the whole bio thing – and eats fish. Why does that matter –well, kid: those who eat the most other fish get the most mercury. And over fishing is a serious problem with government limitations attempting to aid in its recovery. Have a striped sea bass (farmed only) instead.

Tuna, Bigeye/Yellowfin (Imported/Longline)
US is okay* see above
Okay first off, longline fishing is a no-no for sustaining a number of endangered species. And mercury like you read about. Look for pole caught at the very least – but consider substitution with Albacore or Skipjack.

Tuna, Bluefin (US Albacore & Yellowfin is okay, though – don’t fret)
The money is here and the over fishing is rampant for bluefin. Longline fishing yet again, sigh. And a late maturing tuna. One of the worst mercury and PCB holders – plus bad karma. How about some good ol’ USA pole caught yellowtail instead?

Beyond just safe levels of carcinogens (and I do love the idea of a “safe” level of toxic things) there is the sustainable fishing scenario itself to encourage. So whenever you can, get the dirt on your fish before paying for it. Anywhere. Restaurants who care will tell you – because it’s costing them money. Ask if you’re unsure. Pull out your list and check. Don’t be shy.


I'm kind of a big deal.

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