Content Last Updated June 2014
World Oceans Day is almost here! On June 8th people all around the world, from Australia to Canada, will be celebrating World’s Ocean Day in different ways. For me, the best way to celebrate our ocean is to show our appreciation for the food it provides us with. What better way to do that then to take a step back and reflect on our practices around enjoying a nice seafood dinner. Here are my top 5 Sustainable Seafood Foodie Tips.
Why Care About Sustainable Seafood?
Seafood can play an important part in a healthy diet. Omega-3 fatty acids have anti-inflammatory properties, lean protein can replace other high saturated fat meats in our diet, and seafood is also an important source of essential minerals such as zinc (see my post Why You Might Be At Risk For Zinc Deficiency and How To Improve Your Intake), iodine and selenium. Here are my 5 simple tips to becoming a sustainable seafood foodie.
How To Becoming A Sustainable Seafood Foodie
Eat Smaller Fish
Forage fish like sardines and anchovies do nothing to render images of mouth-watering chow. Subsequently, these forage fish aren’t ending up in our frying pan and instead we are opting for larger, more conventional fish such as salmon and tuna. But we are still fishing these forage fish, so where are they ending up? Instead of consuming these perfectly good fish, they are generally ground up and processed for use as animal feed (fish oil helps pigs, chickens, and cows grow faster), nutritional supplements and for food for the aquaculture industry (such as fish farms). Remember that salmon we so heavily rely on for our seafood dinner? It takes about 3 lbs (1.5kg) of forage fish to get one pound of farmed salmon – seems pretty inefficient right? Should consumers bypass aquaculture and be consuming the forage fish instead?
Not only would it be the most cost-effective, but enjoying anchovies or sardines for dinner can help to support our growing population. It has been speculated that if we all swapped farmed salmon and tuna for sardines we could feed three times more people with the same amount of fishing. If your willing to give it a shot, start with adding anchovies into your next Putenesca Pasta or favourite Caesar Salad recipe.
Eat Seasonal Seafood
Yes, that’s right, seafood is seasonal too! It’s hard to imagine sitting down to a meal of chilled prawns during the cold harsh Canadian winters. That’s because prawns such as BC Spot Prawns are in season during the warmer months of May to July.
In my post Unsustainable Seafood In Australia + Better Choices, we discussed the devastating effects our desire for prawns has on the environment. Considering the bycatch, trawled-over ocean floor and sacrificed mangroves, that’s enough to persuade most to pass up on the shrimp cocktail. If we know that the best tomatoes can be enjoyed from July to October then maybe we should apply the same principles to seafood. For more information on BC Spot Prawns see my post from last year Sustainability of BC Spot Prawns.
See a list of Seasonal Seafood in BC here. Australia also has a few excellent guides to seasonal seafood. Sydney Fish Market lists the seasonality of a variety of seafood for each month. Seafood Experience Australia lists the seafood available in each state for the current calendar month.
Love Seafood? Try Seaweed
Let’s face it – table salt is out and gourmet sea salts are in. No harm there right? Well almost. Some may not be aware that iodine has been added to table salt since the 1920s. This has been done to prevent hypo or hypothyroidism, an iodine deficiency-related disease.
Iodine is also essential for normal brain development of a fetus, and a deficiency in the mother during pregnancy can lead to the most easily preventable cause of developmental delay in children. But don’t fret, there is an easy, yummy and sustainable solution to a growing need for iodine in our diet.
One of our best sources of iodine is seaweed and it is found right along our shoreline. It is available for harvest with very minimal effort and as seaweed grows right in the sea, it naturally absorbs many minerals from the seawater.
So swap that seafood dinner for a nice vegetarian meal with a side of seaweed. Just make sure you source your seaweed from a reputable source. Check out my recipe for Japanese Noodle Soup with Miso which uses leftover nori seaweed as a topping. Another seaweed recipe to try could be this yummy Seaweed Rosti.
Go Wild, Choose Local
We’ve already discussed the wasteful effects fish farming can have on forage fish populations. The majority of Pacific Sardines caught go to feeding Farmed Bluefin Tuna in Australia, a fact that most could agree is reckless and irresponsible. Some experts proclaim that fish farming is the way of the future, that it is the only way forward in feeding our growing population.
New deepwater fish farms are popping up all over the globe and claim to have overcome many of the issues surrounding traditional aquaculture. As these farms use a unique structure called an Aquapod in open water to encage the fish, this is said to reduce the incidences of fish escaping into the wild. It also has the added benefit of reducing the impact on coastlines.
Some have overcome the reliance on wild fish populations as feed by feeding the farmed fish soy, which is likely not a sustainable alternative of feeding. This method of fish farming is still in its infancy, and no reliable data exists on the sustainability of these methods.
What we do know is that traditional fish farming is environmentally unsustainable. See my post Is Aquaculture Sustainable? Or Is There Something Fishy About Fish Farms? for more information. Genetically Modified Salmon made headlines earlier this year and the environmental safety concerns surrounding GMO Salmon continue. See my post-Canada GMO Salmon Approved Eggs for more information.
Until we know more about the sustainability of deepwater fish farms and GMO salmon, it is best to choose local seafood, and better yet it’s best to know your fisherman. Community Supported Fishery (CSF) which has a similar concept to CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) offers members weekly shares of fresh seafood for a pre-paid membership fee. In BC we have Skipper Otto’s and Michelle Rose which offer a variety of sustainable seafood options, straight off the boat!
Use These Sustainable Seafood Guides
We all need a little reminder from time to time on which seafood choices are “green” or the most sustainable. There are many options worldwide:
- Countries around Europe and Asia tend to use national WWF guides
- Canada– SeaChoice
- Australia – Australian Marine Conservation Society
- New Zealand – Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society
There are hundreds of resources out there for the seafood conscious consumer. For those of us who feel that feel sustainable seafood is not as black and white as well, “green” and “red”, may appreciate groups trying to incorporate the emissions produced by the harvesting and transport of seafood into their guides. One such is FishChoice which has developed an online mapping tool to help retailers and restaurants connect with fishers in their region.
Rachel Dickens, The Conscious Dietitian, is a Registered Dietitian and Certified Diabetes Educator. She graduated with her Masters in Nutrition and Dietetics in 2010 from Griffith University. She strives to provide evidence-based nutrition information with a focus on plant-based nutrition, and share some of her favourite seasonal recipes and sustainable eating tips.