Fish To Eat Always, Never, and Sometimes

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This article is part of a package on ethical seafood. For mouth-watering recipes, sustainable seafood news, and myriad resources to help readers stay informed and eat sustainably visit Sustainable Seafood.

The following seafood suggestions are adapted from the ultra-informative appendix to Bottomfeeder, in which Taras Grescoe shares his personal recommendations for sustainable fare. Grescoe’s experience, drawn from “a decade of fish eating, and a year and a half of visiting markets and reading menus worldwide,” is extremely helpful in explaining the sustainable way to enjoy those “sometimes” seafoods: the fickle favorites we can still enjoy eating, but under the proper circumstances.–The Editors

Absolutely, Always: Artic char, Halibut (Pacific), Herring, Jellyfish, Mackerel, Mullet, Mussels, Oysters, Pollock, Sablefish, Sardines, Squid, Trout 

No, Never: Bluefin tuna, Chilean sea bass, Cod (Atlantic), Dogfish, Flounder, Grouper, Halibut (Atlantic), Monkfish, Orange Roughy, Sharks, Skates, Sole (Atlantic), Tilefish

Sometimes, Depends…

Anchovy. Low in mercury, high in omega-3s. Available canned, salted, pickled in vinegar, and fermented in Asian sauces. Though flavorful and good for you, anchovy numbers in the North Atlantic and Mediterranean are at an all-time low. Until the fishery in the Bay of Biscay is reopened, avoid.

Cod, Pacific. An excellent alternative to Atlantic cod. Though there is some bycatch with trawl- caught Pacific cod, much is caught with bottom longlines, which have lower rates of bycatch.

Crab. Thanks to the disappearance of their main predators, crabs are doing quite well. King crab from Russia, much of which ends up in chain restaurants, is considered overfished.

Haddock. Bottom-longline and hook-and-line-caught haddock from the United States and Canada is a good choice (and an excellent alternative to cod in fish and chips). Much haddock, unfortunately, is still caught with trawls, with high bycatch levels.

Lobster. Sweet- fleshed Atlantic lobster is generally a good choice, though there is uncertainty about overfishing in the Gulf of Maine. Spiny or rock lobster from Central America, much of which ends up in chain restaurants, is overfished with substandard gear that kills and cripples divers.

Salmon. Industrially farmed salmon (the market name is generally Atlantic salmon) is spreading sea lice to wild stocks, contaminating coastal environments. It can also be very bad for you. Favor sustainably fished wild Alaska salmon, particularly sockeye, coho, and pink. In a pinch, organically farmed salmon is a better alternative to industrially farmed.

Scallops. Farmed scallops, generally sold as bay scallops from Asia and South America, are generally a good choice. Atlantic scallops (sold as giant scallops) are not overfished, but they are dredged, which damages the seafloor.

Shrimp. Be careful eating imported shrimp. If it is farmed, it is often treated with chemicals and antibiotics, and intensive shrimp ponds are polluting some of the world’s poorest countries. If it is wild-caught with trawls, bycatch is enormous. Wild-caught northern shrimp, pink shrimp, and spot prawn from Canada and northern U.S. waters are the only consistently good choices.

Snapper. Avoid overfished red snapper, which accounts for half of the snapper landed in the United States, and is mostly caught in the Gulf of Mexico. Stocks of yellowtail snapper on the market, which is hook-and-line-fished, are in better shape.

Tilapia. Native to the Nile, this bland- fleshed fish is fed vegetable protein, so farming it does not diminish the world’s stock of animal protein. However, tilapia raised in Asia is treated with antibiotics, pesticides, and carbon monoxide. Favor tilapia raised in the Americas, where standards are higher.

Excerpted fromBottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood by Taras Grescoe. Copyright © 2008 by Taras Grescoe. Reprinted with permission of Bloomsbury USA.

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