Five Sustainable Seafood Choices to Cook Right Now
Learn about the fish and shellfish options that are considered good choices for your table and for the environment.
Seafood offers protein and a wealth of healthy nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamins D, and calcium. While we're sure shrimp and salmon are already on your radar, now is a good time to consider other options, which will help you expand your palate and make more sustainable choices when shopping for seafood. All of us are increasingly aware of how limited our natural resources are. Climate change and decades of poor environmental practices are threatening many aspects of our lives, including our food systems. When it comes to seafood, sustainability is paramount. Many bodies of water are over-fished or polluted, and the impact of global warming has had a detrimental effect on water and the species that live in it. According to Seafood Watch, the vast majority of fish populations are being fished far beyond sustainable limits.
Navigating fish selections online or at the grocery store isn't always straightforward. "Fresh fish in supermarkets is unfortunately not consistently reliable in terms of quality or sustainability," says Bianca Piccillo of Mermaid's Garden, a sustainable seafood store in Brooklyn. She suggests purchasing wild, American seafood that's been flash frozen. Assessing the sustainability of seafood hinges on the places where it is caught and the methods used. To make things a little easier, here are five sustainable seafood options to consider.
Piccillo cites canned pole-caught tuna from the U.S. as a sustainable choice. According to the Washington State Department of Health, it's a safe option to eat two to three servings of per week. Pole-caught tuna is generally healthy and doesn't have significant contaminants like mercury and PCBS (a combination of up to 209 chlorinated compounds that can be found in fish). Pole-caught varieties of tuna are available fresh and also canned, so look for "pole" or "troll"-caught wording on cans of tuna. Wild Planet and Safe Catch are two examples.
Purchase bay scallops, which aren't generally farmed by harmful dredging to the ocean floor. Seafood Watch suggests the Alaskan weathervane or farmed versions, bay scallops from Massachusetts, and Pacific calico scallops from Magdalena Bay in Mexico.
The Environmental Defense Fund recommends domestic catfish farmed in indoor recirculating tanks with wastewater treatments. Prioritize product sourced from the Northwest Atlantic and Chesapeake Bay, Seafood Watch suggests. The tender white fish can be served simply grilled or sautéed, or make the southern favorite that is fried catfish.
"U.S. canned clams are always a smart choice," says Piccillo (they're also a good pantry staple to keep on hand). Farmed clams can still be sustainable, according to Seafood Watch, who suggest varieties that have been harvested with hand implements, like Northern razor clams from British Columbia and Canada and Northern Quahog clams from Massachusetts, New York, North Carolina, and Rhode Island. Softshell clams from Quebec and Northwest Atlantic are also good options.
Seafood Watch considers Arctic char, a cold-water species in the salmon family, to be a sustainable option. This fish is also known by other names such as Alpine trout, Alpine char, and sea trout. Select Artic char sourced from the U.S., Iceland, and Canada, or anywhere where a raceway farming system is used (it keeps the tank clean and oxygenated).