If you read Blogfish, MBSL&S, and DSN, I think you see that Rick, Mark, and I are not advocating a complete ban on eating seafood. To the contrary seafood tastes good, especially with lemon and butter, and tastes even better if harvested sustainably.
It is no surprise that the recent Cooking for Solutions event at the Monterey Bay Aquarium dedicated a session entirely to the Big 3. Rick Moonen, chef for rm seafood in Las Vegas and author of Fish Without a Doubt, noted that 60,000 lbs of shrimp are consumed daily in Sin City alone. However, eating bluefin tuna is like scarfing down lions of the Serigentti. All three of these occur on the avoid list of Seafood Watch. Yet some species and fisheries of all three are sustainable.
Brad Ack, regional director of the Marine Stewadship Council, notes that navigating the complexity of do’s and do not’s with regard to seafood is nauseating. Presumably, a Ph.D. in marine biology would provide me with the tools to easily figure it out. But the choices are bewildering and often my choice is not to eat seafood at all. I can’t imagine what it is like for the typical consumer.
So below the fold I tackle the Big Three trying to distill down the information and make the choice easy for you.
- Shrimp: The most important decision you need to make is the choice of U.S. or Canadian shrimp over foreign typically from Asia. All U.S. shrimp fisheries occur in the best choice or good alternative categories of seafood watch. In the past, the bycatch from shrimp fisheries was of concern. Recent technological advances and regulations and largely reduced bycatch. Farm raised shrimp in the U.S. is also heavily regulated. If you want to be more discerning aim for Oregon or British Columbia shrimp. The bad news is that most shrimp available at your supermaket is from Asia. The good news is whether at the seafood counter or in the frozen food case the country of origin is usually indicated. On frozen shrimp look on the back toward the bottom.
- Salmon: Smoked salmon with cream cheese on a true New York Style bagle is a close as you can get to heaven on earth. If the salmon is not wild caught from Alaska, Oregon, Washington, or California avoid it like the bubonic plague. Farm raised and Atlantic are off limits not to mention taste bad.
- Tuna: Tuna is much like my first steady girlfriend. Wonderful but difficult and ultimately not worth the headache. I’m joking of course, but just about the tuna. Eating tuna is navigating a minefield because both your choice depends on both the species and the method of fishing. Unfortunately, the latter you are almost never likely to know. Soo…first always stay away from Bluefin. For simplicity, avoid long-line caught, although a few long-line fisheries are fine. For the most part, if you choose pole/troll or hand caught of anything but Bluefin you will be fine.
Marine Stewardship Council and some final thoughts: If you see the symbol to the left on seafood buy it. The Marine Stewardship Council is trying to make the choice easier for you. See the symbol and the fishery is fine and your off to the dairy section for butter. Unfortunately, I have rarely seen this at my local supermarkets. Although today I just saw Halibut, my current cod replacement, today at Safeway with the MSC logo. Admittedly, I don’t shop at Whole Paychecks and they may carry some. Keep in mind that in the future MSC is working with Wal-Mart (not a typo) placing more products and working with actual fisheries to move them toward sustainability. We also need to keep in mind that we have to come to the realization, and as the Big 3 panel mentioned, that sustainability is going to cost more. It was also mentioned that limiting our portions, go 4oz instead of 6oz, was also important. Ultimately, we need to address whether the demand for the Big 3 can even be sustainable. With global population growth we may not all be able to eat the Big 3 every day. Another interesting idea was that maybe instead of focusing on species, we need to focus on ecosystems. Besides ecologically making sense, this would considerably simplify the consumer choice. Imagine being at the store and purchasing seafood because you know everything from the Gulf of Maine is sustainable…lobster, cod, crab, scallops, salmon, etc…everything. Sure it’s a dream but o what a beautiful one.