Eating a healthy diet that includes seafood has many benefits. Fish is an excellent source of many nutrients including protein, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids. According to the American Heart Association (AHA, www.heart.org ), omega-3 fatty acids benefit our hearts by decreasing abnormal heartbeats, triglyceride levels, and blood pressure, and by slowing the growth of plaque in our arteries. Therefore, the AHA, as well as the American Dietetic Association recommend eating fish at least twice per week.
When choosing seafoods to include in your diet, consider purchasing those that have been sustainably caught or raised. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch defines sustainable seafood as “seafood from sources, whether fished or farmed, that can maintain or increase production without jeopardizing the structure and function of the affected ecosystems”. For fisheries, this means that the species is not over-fished or caught illegally, does not cause habitat damage or a depletion of other species, and does not result in significant bycatch (other species being caught and wasted). For aquaculture (fish farming), sustainability means that farms do not pollute the environment or spread disease, do not damage habitat or allow escapes, and do not use large amounts of wild fish in the feed.
Choosing sustainable seafood not only helps our fish and our oceans. Fishing is the main livelihood for over 200 million people around the world, and 950 million people rely on fish as their main source of protein, as reported by the World Wildlife Fund web site (www.worldwildlife.org). We all have a stake in keeping our oceans healthy and our seafood sustainable. By making informed choices, we as consumers can really make a difference.
So…how do we know what seafood is sustainable? There are several resources available on the internet to guide us. One of the best is the Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA) Seafood Watch program. Their recommendations are science based and peer reviewed, and are updated every six months. They provide handy pocket guides that can be printed from their web site (www.montereybayaquarium.org). Check out the Farmers Market this month and pick up the latest copy for our area. The guides are easy to follow, using a color-coded system listing Best Choices, Good Alternatives, and Avoid. Mobile apps are also available. Another resource that helps us to find the best seafood choices is the Marine Stewardship Council’s blue eco-label shown above. Look for it on packaging the next time you are buying seafood. This organization works to promote the best environmental choices in seafood and rewards sustainable fishing practices. Their web site is www.msc.org.
For delicious recipes, check out the Spring Greens with Salmon (Alaska wild) and Apricot-Ginger Vinaigrette from the AHA, or Pan-Seared Tilapia (US farmed) with Kale and Lemon Vinaigrette from the MBA. Don’t forget to pick up your salad greens and kale from the Farm at St. Joes! Also, pick up a free pocket guide to purchasing sustainable fish at tomorrow’s market. The Seafood Watch Guide provides a list of best choices, good alternatives and fish to avoid.