A few years ago, I was at a sustainable seafood conference held in New York. The place was buzzing with equal parts excitement (surrounding innovations in aquaculture and sustainable fish stocks) and dread (surrounding the dwindling supply of healthy wild fish). One thing the experts largely agreed upon was that the idea of having a definitive and trusty list of fish to eat, as well as fish to avoid, was illusory at best. The reason is that conditions are changing so quickly, as are technology and the environment, that purchasing and consuming the “right” fish is like trying to hit a moving target. The takeaway is that if you want to make the right seafood choices, guides like Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch provide thoughtful guidance, but cannot provide the definitive answer as what to eat and avoid, because things are constantly changing.
The solution is not to give up and start eating shark and Bluefin Tuna (both on the “Avoid” list) or to stop eating fish altogether (although this should be a consideration for some, if not many) but to stay reasonably informed, as eating fish is kind of like shopping for a mortgage. All of that said, I did come upon a compelling list which was recently published by Rodale naming the dozen (or “dirty dozen”) varieties of fish that are pretty much always a bad idea to consume, taking into account everything from environmental impact to toxicity. The list is as follows:
Atlantic Salmon (Wild and Farmed)
Imported King Crab
Atlantic Blue Fin Tuna
Chilean Sea Bass
So the obvious question would be, “Well what the hell can I eat?” Well the list gives alternatives such as:
Wild Alaskan salmon
Wild gulf shrimp
American lake sturgeon
The past few years have shown some positive signs in the industry of sustainable aquaculture producing relatively “clean” seafood in far less environmentally damaging ways. The trick is remaining informed and vigilant, knowing full well that unless things change for the better, buying and consuming the right fish will continue to be a difficult endeavor.