10 Ways to Better Seafood
“We have taken too much sea life from the oceans, eaten too many of the creatures that make up the intricate network of life. We have taken and needlessly wasted creatures we did not want in the form of bycatch. In the process of wasting our resources, we have destroyed jobs. We have let whole communities fail and disappear… We have ravaged the oceans in search of food and are now discovering that our place in the world’s ecosystem is in jeopardy”
-Barton Seaver, For Cod and Country
As I wistfully flipped though the matte, colorful pages of For Cod and Country; packed with recipes like Halibut over Braised Fennel with Orange and Fennel Seed Yogurt and Roast Pepper Gazpacho with Smoked Mussels, I wedged my fingers between pages to mark recipes I wanted to make. I quickly ran out of fingers before making it half way through the book, impressed by the creativity and perspective Seaver brings to building a new kind of seafood menu.
As a daughter of a salmon fisherman, seafood is more than an item I pick up from the man behind the counter at the grocery store. When I was young, to eat salmon meant patiently waiting for 4 long months while my father traveled to Alaska, where he worked long days and rough nights catching, selling and packing up what he could to bring home at the end of the summer. The first bite of each season’s catch meant, to me, that Dad was home. I was proud to know that each fish was caught by the two hands that held mine while walking across the street.
A connection to the source and process behind each filet of fish is a rarity however, especially as increasingly more seafood varieties are farmed or harvested by massive fisheries and shipped all over the world before reaching the consumer. And now, as Seaver points out, we have not only eaten too many creatures of the sea, we have wasted others and inflicted massive destruction on ecosystems and other species while doing so.
Programs like the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, the Blue Ocean Institute, Fish Choice and Sea Choice are taking action to help reverse the devastation and educate consumers about the seafood they eat and how each choice makes an impact. However, in addition to the guidelines that these programs have provided, an overall shift in the way we, as consumers, care for the oceans that provide for us is a necessity.
As Grist columnist Brendan Smith put it in his recent article, The Sustainable Seafood Myth, “…rescuing our oceans from the grip of the climate crisis will require more that editing seafood pocket guides. Instead of saving whales we need to save entire ecosystems.”
Here are 10 easy and effective ways you can take part and make a difference each time you sit down to a seafood dinner-
1. Do use the seafood watch lists that help you make an educated purchase of more sustainably caught and less endangered seafood.
2. Choose locally caught varieties that are not shipped hundreds of miles before reaching your plate.
3. Consider the way each species is caught – some fishing methods harm the environment and other species much more than others.
4. Think in smaller portion sizes – just because salmon is good for you does not mean you need to eat a full pound of it for dinner. Help decrease the amount of overfishing and still reap the health benefits from smaller portions at every meal.
5. Don’t eat fish every day – demand is much higher than supply right now and there is hardly enough to go around, much less on a daily basis.
6. Be ok with frozen fish, sometimes. Fish frozen at sea can often be of better quality and can be transported more sustainably than fresh.
7. Develop a relationship with a local fisherman or fishmonger that you trust. Knowing more about the fish you buy is important.
8. Look into the fisherman’s version of a CSA. Buy-in cooperatives are popping up more frequently and helping support communities of fishermen while encouraging better practices and more connection between the consumer and the source of their seafood.
9. Pay attention to the larger picture, your environmental impact makes a difference too. The oceans and fish populations are suffering from pollution, habitat destruction, climate change and other environmental concerns as well.
10. Don’t forget that real people make a living off supplying fresh, good quality seafood to you. Prices will reflect this and you should be willing to pay for a better quality and more sustainable product.
Check back Thursday for my adaptations of one of Seaver’s amazing recipes. For more, check out his book – For Cod and Country.