By Aylin Erman
One of the most confusing oceans to navigate is that of seafood. First there's the question of mercury and other contaminants. How do you avoid those? Then comes the issue of a reliable source. Where breeds the healthiest fish, and sustainably so at that? Lastly, and equally as important, how's the fish supposed to look, feel and smell? All these considerations are quite overwhelming and often end with a frustrating shrug and sigh. With so much to consider, it can be tricky to get your buck's worth in terms of your health and the environment. Luckily, we've done the research and have put together ten ways you can ensure you are eating the most sustainable fish the world has to offer.
Do Your Homework
Before going to the grocery store, check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch for a comprehensive guide to ocean-friendly seafood. According to the organization's Communications Director Ken Peterson, "Seafood Watch is far and away the source used by consumers and major seafood buyers in North America to shape their seafood buying decisions in ways that promote healthy fisheries and healthy oceans." The site outlines each fish's market name, where it is caught and how it is caught, indicating which variation of a particular fish is the "Best Choice," a "Good Alternative," or one to "Avoid."
Have Your Cake and Eat It Too
Choose seafood that is not only good for you, but also good for the environment. Monterey Bay Aquarium has created a "Super Green" list including seafood with the highest levels of omega-3s and the lowest levels of contaminants as well as a summary of the "Best Choice" ranked fish on the organization's Seafood Watch. These recommendations apply to women of childbearing age, men and children, so they can be trusted to take everyone into account.
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Know How Fish is Caught
Select fish that is caught using methods with lower environmental impact such as hand-lining or potting. The Marine Conservation Society explains the various fish-catching methods and why some are better than others.
Carry a Pocket Guide
Most of us don't have the time to research when making an impromptu stop at the fish market, so being equipped with a fish list is a way to ensure you always make the most well-informed decision come check-out time. The Environmental Defense Fund has put together the easy-to navigate Pocket Seafood Selector and Pocket Sushi Selector to give you a helping hand.
Choose a Reliable Market
Keep tabs on your local grocery stores and inquire how often each receives its seafood shipments and what the regular turnover is. The higher the rate of seafood turnaround, the more likely the fish you buy is as fresh as can be.
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Don't Buy Fishy Fish
Given that we associate the "fishy" smell with something that has gone putrid, under no circumstances should you purchase fish that smells nasty, acidic, or pungent. Fresh fish has the scent of clean water with a slightly briny or cucumber overtone.
Look Skin Deep and Beyond
On the outside, look at the fish and confirm that it is clean and metallic as opposed to dull or discolored. The eyes should be bright and clear and the gills should bear a vibrant red tone - fish that has gone old bears gills with a faded brick color. On the inside, make sure that if there is liquid on the meat, that it is clear instead of milky. Rotting fish will have milky flesh. Don't forget to press against the flesh of the fish - if an indentation appears and stays, the fish has gone bad.
When perusing the seafood section of your grocery store or market, take your assumptions with a grain of salt. Engage in conversation with a salesperson, asking questions that aren't answered by packaging or labeling, and get the scoop on some of the details that aren't so readily available. It's rare to be offered information about how fish is caught, so ask for it! Developing a relationship with seafood personnel is also a great way to get the most comprehensive information time and time again.
Rotate Your Fish
Try to venture outside your repertoire of, say, three types of fish and try your hand at making dishes with other fish deemed the healthiest and most environmentally friendly by the "Super Green" list. Eat sustainably across the board, not just with one type.
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Spread the Word
Tell your friends and family about seafood sustainability and encourage them to apply these tips to their culinary seafood escapades. The best way to share, you ask? Why, only whilst devouring seared salmon over lentils.