This Friday in Lent, a day when devout Catholics are eating fish instead of meat, seems a particularly appropriate time to remind everyone that the populations of cod and many other once familiar fish are in serious decline. The species of fish, its country of origin, how and by whom it was caught, or where it was farmed are all important factors to consider when making a purchase.
The most sustainable choices are not always obvious, but there are a few tools and guides to help consumers navigate these confusing waters.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), the world’s leading certification and ecolabelling program for sustainable seafood, offers a sustainable seafood product finder on its website. Simply enter a checkmark for your retailer, hit return, and you will find the MSC products the chain offers. You can narrow the search by species and product type.
Whole Foods Markets seems to offer the largest selection and the greatest variety of both fresh and frozen products. Whole Foods has been working with the MSC since 1999, striving to source “as much Marine Stewardship Council certified sustainable seafood as possible.” MSC certified seafood is clearly marked with a blue MSC label. The chain has also instituted a sustainability rating program, presenting consumers with other choices labelled Green (from well-managed fisheries) or Yellow (from fisheries where there are some concerns). They no longer offer Red rated products (overfished, poorly managed, or caught in ways that cause harm to habitats or other wildlife). You won’t find trawl-caught Atlantic Cod at Whole Foods!
With the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Guide, the consumer entering a seafood or sushi name will receive recommendations broken into three categories: Best Choices, Good Alternatives, and Avoid. The recommendations are updated monthly. Regional pocket guides are available for printing, but I recommend downloading the Seafood Watch App to your smartphone so you can search for the most up-to-date info while you shop, wherever you happen to be. I have been using this guide for years and have noted the recent rise of many species of farmed fish from distant lands, including Barramundi from Vietnam, to the “Best Choice” category.
Even deciphering the label on canned tuna can seem a daunting task. But with the help of Greenpeace's Tuna Shopping Guide, the task becomes a simple one. I was happy to see my most recent purchases ranked #1 and 4. [Thanks Janey and Polly for sharing.]
I have lived in coastal New England my whole life, and sustainable fishing is an issue very important to me. For some of my other posts on this subject, read here, here, and here.
Good luck hunting the best fish. And TGIF.