Legend once had it that the Atlantic was teeming with so much cod that one could virtually walk from Canada to Europe. Now this resilient fish joins a growing list of fish including bluefish tuna, chilean sea bass, and more that is in threat of dying off in our lifetime potentially.
Fish have come under assault in the last 50 years from a variety of different sources. Pollution and industrialization have harmed their environments and lowered their stock as well as the introduction of “industrialized” or large scale fishing which has caused the majority of damage. In essence, large scale commercial fisheries have gotten greedy and overfished which has reduced fish populations to levels that are close to irreversible. So what’s all the talk about over fishing and a green lifestyle.
Though things look bleak, as some scientists are saying that much of the seafood we are accustomed to seeing on every menu and in every grocery store may be gone by 2050, it’s not too late to reverse this trend. Unlike many animals that are endangered because their environment has been destroyed or they’ve been hunted for “luxury” items they produce(for instance 3 ton elephants being hunted for their ivory tusks), fish seem to have suffered a different fate. Quite simply, we love to eat them so much that it has led fisheries to do whatever they can to provide us with the species of fish we covet.
Bluefin tuna is a great example of this, as studies have shown that 80% of bluefin tuna from the Mediterranean has disappeared since the introduction of industrial fishing, and it now ranks as one of the WWF’s endangered species. As a seafood lover, I don’t want to give up eating fish, but you can quite easily help preserve fish in a variety of ways.
For starters, eating lower on the food chain, that is eating smaller fish such as anchovies, is a great way to continue eating fish without the guilt. Smaller fish are more sustainable because it takes them less time to reproduce as it does larger fish, reducing your footprint on the environment. Another good rule of thumb is to buy American. America has higher standards them most foreign countries regarding fishing, so not only will you help out the environment by buying American, but you will be helping the local economy as well.
You might think buying local seafood is better than buying from a big supermarket but what’s important with fish is the method they are caught, as unsustainable fisheries often inadvertently kill and waste fish they accidentally catch that wasn’t their intended target. It’s been estimated that 900,000 metric tons or 28% of the world catch is wasted and thrown overboard(called by catch) every year.
The sad thing is that any combination of the following steps can really help the environment out if you love seafood:
1. Do not eat fish like bluefin tuna, chilean sea bass, orange roughy etc. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has seafood guides that tell you what fish are endangered and should be avoided, and they even include pocket size and cell phone applications to help you with your shopping. It even has a sushi guide which identifies good and bad fish to eat.
2. If you can’t shake your habit for fish like salmon that is quickly decreasing in number use sites like EDF.org to help you find sustainable options for salmon. You can eat sustainable fish which is not harming fish stocks and there are growing numbers of verified sustainable fish sources. The Marine Stewardship Council is an organization that verifies sustainable fisheries and fish and you can find their stickers on many products.
3. Choose your supermarket carefully. Stores like Costco not only sell endangered seafood but don’t work with organizations to provide sustainable fish to its customers. Check out Greenpeace’s ranking of supermarkets to find out which ones are doing their part to provide environmentally safe and sustainable fish to reduce your carbon footprint.
Target, Trader Joe’s, Wegman’s, Safeway and more are actively trying to be part of the solution and not the problem with their current policies.
Being an informed consumer and using your buying power to support sustainable fish and the companies that are trying to bring you these fish is a minor change you can make to help ensure that our favorite dishes from salmon to sushi will still be on our dinner tables for generations to come.
As a handy iPhone or Touch App – check out our August Green App of the Month review on Seafood Watch
Some other Green Blizzard lifestyle articles that might be of interest: