The good news:
Trader Joe’s, pushed hard by Greenpeace and others, says that by the end of 2012 it will offer only sustainable fish in its 365 stores. Previously the company has eliminated heavily overfished Chilean Sea Bass, Orange Roughy, and Red Snapper from its refrigerators.
The bad news: The government is on the verge of expanding off-shore fish farming to support consumers’ increased demand, and reduce American reliance on imported fish. Greater numbers of fish farms means more pollution–the article says the pollution from fish waste, uneaten food, antibiotics, parasites, and other byproducts will be equal to sewage generated by 17 million people. If genetically-modified farmed fish escape and breed with wild fish, it can weaken the native stock. Carnivorous fish require smaller wild fish as food, so feeding greater numbers of farmed fish depletes the supply of wild feeder fish. Expanding farming into the oil-saturated Gulf of Mexico has unknown health repercussions for consumers. The negatives are numerous when fish farming is careless, and it’s important for the government to enforce sustainable practices… which can be said for all types of farming!
It’s hard to be a responsible fish consumer these days. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has a helpful site — and smartphone apps! — to help shoppers choose sustainably-caught fish that are low in toxins. Here are what they consider the best choices, as of last fall:
- Albacore Tuna (troll- or pole-caught, from the U.S. or British Columbia)
- Freshwater Coho Salmon (farmed in tank systems, from the U.S.)
- Oysters (farmed)
- Pacific Sardines (wild-caught)
- Rainbow Trout (farmed)
- Salmon (wild-caught, from Alaska)
- Arctic Char (farmed)
- Barramundi (farmed, from the U.S.)
- Dungeness Crab (wild-caught, from California, Oregon or Washington)
- Longfin Squid (wild-caught, from the U.S. Atlantic)
- Mussels (farmed)
Sustainable Sushi has another list to help sushi eaters navigate a menu.
So, please ask where your fish came from and how it was caught, and avoid the 4 fish on Sustainable Sushi’s “4 Fish We Just Shouldn’t Eat” list: Bluefin tuna, Orange roughy, Shark, and Chilean sea bass.