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Is the fish on your plate safe to eat?

Don’t be tempted to think that “wild-caught” equals sustainable and safe to eat. There’s much more to seafood than that…

September 23, 2014

Well, is it? Just because it boasts “wild-caught” on the label doesn’t mean it’s sustainably caught or from clean water. Here’s the easiest way to source healthy seafood: the Monterey Bay Aquarium monitors fisheries and fish farms then publishes their findings online through their Seafood Watch. The Seafood Watch is an indispensable resource for those who want to eat clean, healthy, sustainable fish. I highly recommend you don’t visit the fish counter without first consulting their lists.

The aquarium has developed in-depth sets of criteria for both wild-caught and farmed seafood. They look at issues like toxicity levels in seafood, pollution caused by harvesting seafood, threats to marine life populations and damage to ocean environments. They categorize seafood below headings of “Best Choice”, “Good Alternative” and “Avoid”, and provide the story behind why each type of seafood earned its ranking.

It’s constantly updated, which brings us to this piece of good news: several types of fish were recently moved from the “Avoid” list to the “Good Alternative” or “Best” lists. I’m not a big fish-eater, but I find this news heartening.

Is the fish on your plate safe to eat? (2)Here’s why:

The fish industry is rife with problems. Overfishing has put the health of the oceans and most fish species populations at great risk (seafood lover or not, who wants a world without fish?). Bycatch results in the senseless waste of  marine life when sea wildlife, unintentionally caught along with fish destined for the market, is dumped overboard. Most bycatch doesn’t survive the experience. Runoff from agricultural and industrial practices constantly carries toxins into the oceans which poisons both the ocean environments and the wildlife living there. Food from the oceans exposed to such levels of toxicity is unfit for human consumption (but that doesn’t stop it from reaching the market). When it comes to fish, good news is greatly needed. So though I’m not the biggest seafood fan out there, I’ll certainly cheer for improved fishing practices and cleaner oceans.

By the way, if you are a lover of seafood (and sustainable foods) it’s worth learning their seasons. Just like fruits and vegetables grow better and taste more flavorful in certain seasons, so do fish.

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