Seafood

Seafood

Environmental Abuses = Sick Fish

So first it was overfishing and avoiding Chilean sea bass (I don’t know why they abandoned its real name, Patagonian toothfish!) and now there’s too much mercury in our larger fish. So how did all that mercury get in there? Just the usual answer: abusing our environment.

Industrial processes release mercury that makes it into rivers, lakes, and the ocean (and thus into fish). The highest concentrations of mercury are found in large fish at the top of the food chain, like tuna and swordfish. Mercury is a toxin that can cause neurological problems, particularly in babies, as pregnant women well know after constant warnings to “Drop that spicy tuna roll!” But too much mercury can also affect adults, particular in their cardiovascular, neurological, and reproductive systems.

It’s also important to mention the recent depletion of wild salmon. Possible reasons for it? Overfishing, man-made obstructions to migration patterns (dams, irrigation canals), and warming waters causing the depletion of their traditional food sources. Salmon fishing is currently banned off the coasts of California and Oregon in order
to build stock back up. So what’s left? “Atlantic salmon!” But don’t do it. “Atlantic salmon” is code for “farmed salmon” and is full of antibiotics. And if you see “wild salmon” on a menu, inquire to make sure it’s true. It often isn’t. There just simply isn’t enough supply these days.

For more specifics based on where you live, Wikia Green is a helpful online guide to which fish are good choices and which fish you should avoid, according to what region of the country you live in.

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch goes into a little more detail about why the fish is okay in some regions and not in others, U.S. versus imported fish, and even the importance of the manner in which they were caught.

Standing in the store’s fish department? Text “FISH” and then the name of the specific fish you are curious about to 30644 (the Blue Ocean Institute) and you will get an instant answer via text message.

Shopping Tips

Limit your intake of large-size, high-mercury fish like tuna and swordfish. Avoid bluefin tuna entirely as it is extremely endangered.

Only buy wild salmon. “Atlantic salmon” is code for “farmed salmon” and is
full of antibiotics. Buying Atlantic salmon will also contribute to the increasing
and uncontrolled spread of antibiotics and bacterial parasites to the wild salmon population.

Learn to love smaller fish like sardines and tilapia.

Buy local fish: it will likely be the freshest.

Consult the pro/con guides (above) to local fish in your region
(some farmed fish is okay!).

Be attentive to what is overfished so you can avoid purchasing it.

Common Questions

Are farmed fish okay to eat?
Generally, fish farms are frowned upon for overcrowding, their use of antibiotics and fertilizers, and health issues like lice, intestinal worms, and bacterial infections–like the insidious one that Chilean salmon farmers can’t seem to shake. Plus, their parasites are proven to infect the wild fish population. However, some farmed fish are actually considered safer than their wild versions, like scallops.

What should I look for when buying a whole fish?
Look for shiny skin; clear eyeball (not cloudy); firm flesh; the color underneath the gills should be red, not brown; the tail should be moist and flat, not curled up.

  • Limit your intake of large-size, high-mercury fish like tuna and swordfish
  • Only buy wild salmon; avoid Atlantic salmon
  • Learn to love smaller fish like sardines and tilapia
  • Buy local fish: it will likely be the freshest
  • Consult the pro/con guides (left) to local fish in your region (some farmed fish is okay!)
  • Be attentive to what is overfished in your region so you can avoid purchasing it
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