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Sustainable Fish

Sustainable Fish

So what’s for dinner???

This question is heard countless times a day around the world, and for some the answer is fish.  For most people that answer is sufficient but today more than ever YOU need to ask more questions.  What kind of fish?  Where is it from?  Is it farmed? Is it wild? Is it sustainable?  These are all important questions as the world’s fisheries see constant decreases in their populations and overall fish size.

What kind of fish? This is important because some fish have different names, and suppliers may choose a name that they believe will sell.  As an example the Chilean sea bass is also known as Patagonian toothfish, Antarctic cod and icefish.  Know what you are eating, ask the question, and if there is no answer make another selection.

Where is the fish from?  A very important question that needs to be answered if you are trying to use sustainable fish.  As an example shrimp can be found in many parts of the world.  Shrimp that are harvested in Southeast Asia should be avoided because shrimping in this region can have negative impacts on the environment.  In comparison wild caught shrimp from Oregon, is a better choice because it does not have a negative impact.  Next time you see shrimp for sale at the local food store ask the fish monger, “where are these shrimp from?”  At the restaurant, ask the server “where are these shrimp from?”

Is the fish farmed or is it wild caught?  This is important because some fish that are farmed actually have higher mercury levels than wild caught fish.  Some fish farming can also have negative impacts on the environment such as pollution and the accidental release of farmed fish into the wild population.  On the other hand some farmed fish are a better choice because they give wild populations a chance to recuperate from past over-fishing.

All of these questions can be wrapped up into sustainability, and since we now have the questions where do we find the answers?  One of the most up to date and accurate places to check is Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program (  The Seafood Watch program is full of information on current research, conservation efforts and resources that help consumers gain a better understanding of the world’s fisheries.  The program produces a pamphlet that breaks down fish by what you should eat in terms of sustainable fishing practices, low environmental impact and low mercury counts.  It also provides information on fish that make a good alternative if the best fish are not available and also lists fish that should be avoided. 

The information provided by Seafood Watch can help you make the right choice for you and your family whether you are at the supermarket or at a restaurant.  By purchasing sustainable fish you make a difference; you are helping the fisheries of the world recover from decades of exploitation.  Additionally, if the demand for unsustainable fish decreases there is a chance that they will survive for the enjoyment of future generations.  Remember, as they say, as unfortunate as it is, money talks, and in order to make change you need to affect a person’s wallet.

Remember that YOU can make a difference by asking questions.  Ask the fishmonger, ask the server or cook about the fish you are going to order.  If they cannot give you the information you need, make another selection.  If this happens enough change can take place.  Additionally the Seafood Watch Program has forms that you can print out and leave with your fishmonger or local restaurant to help them better understand sustainability.


Sustainable Fish & Costco

This is a great post, Tim.  It's such an important subject and this is really helpful information.

I wanted to add something.   A few weeks ago, I blogged about how Greenpeace was protesting the fact that Costco was selling unsustainable fish.  I love Costco and because they sell SO MUCH stuff,  I was following this story very closely.  Luckily, today I just read that Costco has adopted a new fish policy and will be ultimately selling only sustainable fish!  Excellent news!  

Let's hope more markets and restaurants follow suit!  

Thanks for sharing all of this info.

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