Monday, September 24, 2012

Meatless Monday: Foraging for Ocean-Friendly Fish…

in all kinds of places. It’s not as easy to purchase ocean (and consumer)-friendly seafood as in the old days when you could walk into the neighborhood fish market and purchase the local catch.

Now it’s important to consider whether the seafood for sale is ocean-friendly — caught in a manner and quantity which will allow the stock to thrive, or farmed under clean and ecologically sound conditions. Is the fish a Best Choice, a Good Alternative, or one you should Avoid altogether?

The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program provides all the tools you need to make choices which are good for the ocean, in  the form of a handy, frequently updated, pocket guide to help you select the best seafood from your available options. The Guide exists in printed form which you can pick up at the Aquarium or a wide variety of locations if you are lucky enough to visit the Monterey Bay area. You can also access it online and print out your own copy. The Guide is tailored for different geographic regions, so be sure to select the version of the Guide correct for you. [There is also a National version and one for Sushi.] And, if you have a smartphone, you are in luck. Download the free app and you will be able to enter the name of a fish and immediately access information on your selection and see the program’s recommendation. If you use the app on your phone, be sure to enter any good sources you find so others can share in your good fortune through Project Fishmap.

I brought my phone with me on Saturday as I did my weekend shopping. At Whole Foods I bought a 2 lb. bag of BlueBay cultured mussels, farmed on Prince Edward Island in Canada, a Best Choice. Relatively inexpensive at $5.99, and higher in Omega 3s than any other shellfish, they were also very easy to prepare. Farmed mussels are clean and beardless — no scrubbing necessary. That night we steamed them in a bottle's worth of local beer until they opened. [Tasty broth, I might add.]

Next I hit Trader Joe’s in the hopes of stocking the freezer. At TJ’s you need to be careful as there are a few good choices amongst quite a number of not so good ones. By carefully reading the labels and using the app, I was able to pick up arctic char farmed in Iceland (a Best Choice) and some crab cakes from Maryland (a Good Alternative) which I was cautioned to eat in limited quantity due to concerns about mercury content. 

Next up was a stop at home to put the purchases away. But one errand remained – a stop at IKEA for lightbulbs and a cheap cafeteria lunch. IKEA now offers Atlantic Saithe (another name for Atlantic Pollock) in their New Haven cafeteria as a replacement for their previous offering of farmed salmon (on the Avoid list). IKEA sources have informed me through email  that the saithe is sourced from MSC-certified fisheries off the coast of Norway, which would seem to make it a Good Alternative or Best Choice, depending on which type of nets were used. I was also informed that this information is not displayed since IKEA has chosen not MSC-certify their restaurants. Saithe is a mild, flaky fish, and the price of the meal is certainly a deal. I’m glad to know I can enjoy it from time to time in relatively good conscience. I haven’t given up on trying to find out more, and I am hoping that IKEA has set improving their seafood sourcing as one of their goals.

Saithe with jerusalem artichoke gravy, etc…
That’s a wrap on my weekend of fish hunting.

I hope you’ll join me in watching what seafood you eat. There is great power in numbers. The more people who ask for ocean-friendly seafood, the better! 

I am one of the Aquarium’s many volunteer Seafood Watch Advocates. If you decide you’d like to take your commitment to saving the oceans to the next level, check it out. It’s free.

Happy Monday!

I often blog on food or food issues on Monday in support of Meatless Monday, one of several programs developed in the Healthy Monday project, founded in 2003 in association with Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health, Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and Syracuse University’s Newhouse School of Communications. Meatless Monday’s goal is “to help reduce meat consumption 15% in order to improve personal health and the health of our planet.”

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