How Sustainable is Your Seafood?

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How sustainable is your seafood?
Monterey Coast, Highway 1

This past weekend my husband surprised me with a trip to Monterey as a belated mother’s day present. Since we moved, we haven’t really been able to take a weekend off and enjoy some family time away from home so I was super excited. We planned on going to the Monterey Bay Aquarium and then take some scenic drives on Highway 1. We also planned on eating a lot of good seafood since some restaurants in Monterey are following the aquariums Sustainable Seafood Guide.

We first had lunch at a restaurant on the water called Fish Hopper. They are one of the participating restaurants that follows the Sustainable Seafood Guide. Scott ordered a fresh catch of the day fish sandwich, I ordered fish and chips (had a weird craving and than immediately regretted it because of the migraine I got from the fried fish) and we ordered Andrew a hunk of sustainably caught, wild salmon. It was all delicious!

For dinner that night, we drove south to Carmel and ate at a local restaurant called Flaherty’s. I had some delicious lobster bisque, Scott ordered a seafood pasta and we ordered Andrew grilled, wild caught sea bass, shrimp, and organic carrots. Andrew gobbled it up and then continued to eat some of my lobster bisque. It makes me so happy that he loves seafood!

Andrew running to us for more clam chowder

For lunch the next day we had award winning clam chowder in a bread bowl on OId Fisherman’s Wharf. We gave Andrew some butternut squash I had cooked before we left and he had multiple bites of our clam chowder. To be honest, he could probably finish all the clam chowder if we let him!

It was wonderful to eat seafood that whole weekend as it is one of my family’s favorite type of food!

The Demand for Seafood and How to Purchase Sustainable Seafood

The demand for seafood is increasing worldwide. Who can blame us? Seafood is delicious AND nutritious! But this demand can come at a high price. Over 80% of the fish we eat in the United States are imported to meet the high demand of seafood which inevitably leads to overfishing causing the populations to drop dramatically. This hurts everyone involved, especially the ocean’s ecosystem. As an ocean lover and diver, this hits pretty deep for me. I can’t imagine not having a specific type of shark anymore due to overfishing and bycatch. Now, more than ever people are starting to be involved in Aquaculture, or farming of the fish and other seafood.

Aquaculture has it’s pros and cons. The good thing about aquaculture (when done environmentally friendly) is it helps supply the high demand of seafood without hurting the wild fish populations.  The issues with wild seafood include overfishing, illegal fishing, bycatch and habitat damage. So farming fish could be a great production because the last thing we want to do is to over-fish and cause species to become extinct. Unfortunately- just like there are food farmers that produce food irresponsibly- there are also fish farmers that raise the fish carelessly. The issues with irresponsible farming of fish include pollution & disease, non-native escapees, wild fish feed, and habitat damage. If you click on any of those links it will take you to the Monterey Bay Aquariums website and will give you a brief, 2 paragraph description of why these are dangerous to you and the environment. 

As with anything, there are issues to both sides of the spectrum. To me, when I think of seafood I think of wild caught fish. When I think of eating salmon I think of eating a fish that was in their natural habitat, eating their natural foods. You see, salmon are carnivorous fish- they feed on other fish and sea organisms. Unfortunately, almost every restaurant or store that carries fish will have farmed salmon. So what’s the problem with farmed salmon if farming could be such a good thing? Well, the big question that makes my brain wonder is since salmon eat other fish, what are they feeding the salmon? I hope they aren’t feeding them corn, soy and other things that are unnatural to the salmon diet. Or maybe they are feeding them other wild fish? But then what is that doing to the other fish population?  Whatever it may be, it’s not natural and I prefer wild caught salmon over farm raised.  It’s just like cattle raising, if you feed the cattle unnatural things the nutritional value goes down.

It can be a little difficult to decide what type of seafood to buy especially when you have to figure out if farmed or wild is the best option but the Monterey Bay Aquarium created the Seafood WATCH, a Sustainable Seafood Guide.  In the guide they have seafood labeled in categories: Best Choices, Good Alternatives and Avoid. Next to the name of the fish it also tells you whether it was farmed, wild caught and where it is from. There is a very helpful tool to help guide you in making the right choices in your seafood purchases and can help with any confusion you might have about farmed vs wild.

I have a few pocket size guides naming the fish and also a few pocket size guides of sustainable sushi. If you want one, I will be more than happy to send you one via mail- just leave a comment on here and I will get in contact with you. You can also download their free app at the App Store by searching for Seafood WATCH.

Click here for an interesting Fish Facts Cards.

Enjoy your seafood but make sure to make educated choices because when you eat sustainably raised or caught seafood you are helping to support healthy, abundant oceans.

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