Posts Tagged "seafood"

The Seafood Lover’s Dilemma

I love seafood, and, if I lived closer to the coast, I could easily give up all meat and just live off of seafood. I’m a great-great granddaughter of a halibut sea captain, after all. It’s in my blood.

Eating seafood is a constant dilemma for me, though, as I’m sure it is for many other ocean lovers out there. On the one hand, I’m constantly hearing about how good fish is for you. The Omega-3s found in seafood are very important, especially for children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers, and it can’t be found anywhere else. Yet I’m also constantly hearing about how much the oceans are overfished. Though the news so often focuses on oil spills and floating plastic in the ocean, the biggest threat to marine life is industrial fishing. I love seafood, but I also love the oceans. So what do I do?

Luckily there are many organizations out there that are trying to make it easier for consumers to buy sustainably-caught seafood. I personally love Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Guide. They even have an app, so when I’m standing at the fish counter or looking at a menu, I can check the app and try to figure out what to buy. Here’s the one problem, though. With so many different fishing methods out there, and so many different names for fish, it can be confusing. For example, Atlantic cod is a good choice if it’s from Iceland and caught using a hook-and-line. Atlantic Cod from the Gulf of Maine, caught with the same method, is not as good of a choice, and Atlantic cod caught by trawl is an altogether bad choice. Plus there’s the issue of mercury in seafood, which is yet another thing I have to think about. More often than not, by the time I make a choice, I’m not confident I chose the right thing.

That’s why, when I saw the new book The Perfect Protein The Fish Lover’s Guide to Saving the Oceans and Feeding the WorldI was intrigued. It was written by Andy Sharpless, who is the Chief Executive Officer of the ocean conservation group Oceana. Surely, if anyone could help me figure out what to eat and what not to, he could.

Now that I’ve read it, I can highly recommend it to any seafood lovers out there. He certainly doesn’t say to stop eating seafood. As the title of his book states, he’s the first to acknowledge that fish are the perfect protein and how many people depend on it to live. Though I encourage anyone who eats seafood to read his book, I’m going to share many of his tips here, because it’s crucial knowledge if you want to help save the oceans, and I know perfectly well not everyone will actually read the book.

So here we go. Some tips on how to make better seafood choices:

Fish to avoid, or eat less of:

  1. Don’t eat fish from fast food places like McDonald’s or those frozen fish sticks found in a box. I know. You’re shocked that I’m saying this, right? Really, it’s not just because I hate McDonalds and fast food in general. There’s another reason. The fish caught for these items is called pollock, and the pollack fishing industry is a billion dollar business. Cheap fish for the masses may seem like a good idea, but it comes, like so many other cheap things, with a heavy price. It is caught off of Alaska, where the chinook salmon are found. These fish could easily sell for at least $17 a pound, yet when they’re caught as bycatch, they’re thrown back into the ocean. During the best year so far, due to strict regulations, only 8,000 chinook were caught as bycatch. During the worst year, 130,000 were caught. Why is this a problem? The native people of Alaska depend on that fish to live. One family needs about 120 to make it through the winter. Their main food source is thrown back in the ocean and wasted, just so that the world can get cheap fish through a drive through window. Think about it. 
  2. Avoid fish that are caught with trawls, driftnets, gill-nets, and longlines. These are the methods that catch a lot of bycatch, including sharks, turtles, and dolphins.
  3. Avoid farmed carnivorous fish, such as salmon. At first, farmed fish sounds like a good idea. You’re raising fish instead of taking them out of the ocean, right?  Yet it can take at least 5 lbs of wild fish to feed a farm raised salmon. So in order to raise a fish, you need to kill wild fish and a lot of them. These wild fish could be feeding people in developing countries, not fattening up a salmon. Plus farmed fish often carry diseases that can pass to their wild counterparts and raising fish can damage the environment. And FYI: There’s no such thing as wild Atlantic salmon anymore. If it’s from the Atlantic, it’s farmed. (I did not know this until reading this book.)
  4. Avoid, or eat very little of, the large predator, top of the food chain fish. Avoid sharks and swordfish. They reproduce slowly, which makes it difficult for them to rebound when overfished. And when the top of the food chain is in trouble, the entire ocean suffers. Women of child-bearing age and children should especially avoid shark and swordfish. Since they are top of the food chain, they are high in mercury.
  5. Be cautious of fish caught around other countries, especially Asia. According to the book, “the FDA is supposed to inspect foreign seafood, but it actually looks at only about 2 percent of the millions of metric tons of seafood that arrive in the United States every year.” Seafood fraud is a big issue, so buy from sources and fishmongers who fillet the fish themselves.
  6. Eat less shrimp. Until reading this book, I had no idea how much damage shrimp causes. Gulf of Mexico shrimp are found in the same areas as endangered sea turtles. Shrimp trawlers kill hundreds of endangered sea turtles every year. In fact, according to The Perfect Protein, “76 percent of the marine life that shrimp trawlers haul up isn’t shrimp at all.” Instead it’s shark, red snapper (which is very endangered), and sometimes up to 9,000 sea turtles a year. Is farmed shrimp better? Unfortunately the industrial farms spread pollution and disease. In the end, eating less shrimp is the only answer.

Fish to Eat:

  1. Shellfish (except for shrimp). Farmed clams and oysters actually improve the quality of the ocean because they are filter feeders. 
  2. Wild Fish, especially the big fish, such as salmon.
  3. If you eat farmed fish, choose types of fish that eat vegetarian diets, such as catfish and tilapia. US catfish is actually a very sustainable choice.
  4. Small, oily fish. I confess the thought of eating sardines and anchovies isn’t exactly appetizing to me. Like most Americans, I only know anchovies as the things that are on Caesar salads and sardines as those gross things in a can. Many other countries, such as Spain and Italy, eat sardines and anchovies daily. Numerous chefs in the US are trying to change our attitude towards these little fish. Chefs such as Alton Brown and health advocates such as Andrew Weil eat sardines for lunch on a regular basis and for good reason. These fish have even more Omega-3s than salmon and, because they are small and towards the bottom of the food chain, they are low in toxins and reproduce quickly, which makes them a very sustainable choice. Plus they are in abundance, though most of the ones caught these days are used to feed livestock and farmed salmon. I, for one, am determined to get over the ick-factor and give them a try.
  5. Eat fish that are caught with pole, troll, hook-and-line or harpoon. Say goodbye to bycatch.
  6. If you don’t live on the coast where you can rely on an expert fishmonger, shop at Whole Foods. Unlike Kroger and other chain stores, Whole Foods refuses to sell red-listed seafood. It also displays where the seafood comes from and gives the Monterey Bay rating. Plus they fillet the fish themselves, which greatly reduces the chance of seafood fraud.
  7. Eat as local as possible. Obviously hard for me to do, living in Ohio, but eating a fish from US waters is almost always better than eating one caught on the other side of the globe.

The above  just barely highlights the amount of information you will find in this little book, so once I again I strongly encourage any seafood lovers out there to read it. (It also has recipes and an excellent Suggested Reading list.) And help spread the word. The fishing industry will only start to change once consumers demand it.

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Tandoori Salmon: Round One

A couple of months ago I had Tandoori Salmon for the first time and loved it, and whenever I taste something in a restaurant that I love, I always try to copy it at home. Tandoori is an Indian method of cooking in which a protein (traditionally chicken) is marinated in Indian spices and yogurt and then baked in a clay oven called a Tandoor. Most of the recipes I looked at assume that people in the US don’t have a tandoor laying around and instead suggested either broiling or grilling the meat (or in this case, fish). I broiled my salmon and it was delicious. I’m not going to post the recipe yet, though, because I thought it needed even more spice. Once I perfect the recipe, I will post it, but for now, I simply had to share a photo of the salmon, for I’m quite proud of how it came out.

Tandoori Salmon

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