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Plenty of Fish: A Guide to Picking the Right Seafood

Published February 13th, 2014 by Admin

Which fish are safe, ethically harvested and sustainable? Which ones have the lowest levels of industrial contaminants like mercury and PCBs? Which ones are famed by local fishermen? Which fish should you be eating, and which ones should you stay away from? Here’s the breakdown.

  1. Eat domestic, farm-raised catfish. It’s responsibly farmed, and there’s plenty of it. There’s also more than plenty of Asian carp, which tastes similar to catfish, and is overrunning the Great Lakes and endangering its ecosystem. Eat up! You’re doing nature a favor. However, stay away from imported catfish, which usually comes from Vietnam and may be exposed to banned antibiotics.
  2. Eat Pacific cod. They’re one of Food and Water Watch’s top picks, and there’s lots of them. However, Atlantic cod stock is very low – they’re currently a threatened species one step above endangered. So make sure your fish ‘n’ chips are coming from the West, not the East.
  3. Eat Atlantic- or Pacific-caught squid. They taste like eel, so you get the flavor without the PCB and mercury that contaminate regular eel meat. (Remember this next time you go out for sushi.)
  4. Eat domestic shrimp. The shrimp from Oregon and the Gulf of Mexico are your best bet – they’re stringently regulated under the Marine Stewardship Council guidelines. Not so good? Imported shrimp, which is poorly inspected and often contaminated with chemicals and other substances.
  5. Eat tilapia. This mild, white-fleshed fish is a great substitute for Atlantic flatfish (flounder, sole and halibut), which suffer from contamination and overfishing.
  6. Eat wild Alaskan salmon. It’s not polluted, it’s not genetically engineered, and it tastes great! DON’T purchase Atlantic salmon, which is grown on crowded, polluted fish farms full of diseases and parasites.
  7. Eat domestic king crab. The stuff from Alaska is the responsibly harvested crab meat you want to eat. What you don’t want to eat: Imported king crab from Russia, where fish harvest limits are poorly enforced.
  8. Eat Pacific halibut or Atlantic mackerel. But not shark. Shark meat is high in mercury (very bad for you!) and eating sharks also hurts the ocean’s ecosystem by upsetting the food chain balance.
  9. Eat yellow snapper. It’s a similar-tasting stand-in for orange roughy, which is chronically overharvested and also contains mercury.
  10. Eat U.S. hook-and-line-caught haddock. Yep, caught the old-fashioned way. You’ll get the same taste and texture as Chilean sea bass, but without the high prices, high mercury levels, illegal harvesting, and shrinking stock. Seems like a no-brainer.

 Oh, and an extra caveat about caviar: Beluga and wild-caught sturgeon, the fish that lay the eggs used in caviar, are subject to overfishing and are threatened by pollution and increased dam-building. So try to cut back on the fish eggs and allow these species to rebound.


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