An article in last month’s Scientific American, “Fishing Blues” highlights the problems that fishing poses for our marine life. As Earth’s population swells in both number and appetite, our fishing takes its toll through various harms, from overfishing to habitat destruction. And in addition to the inherent loss of losing biodiversity, this will have major impacts on humans — whether from simple shortages to far-reaching effects of damaged ecosystems.
Governmental regulations are important, but the most powerful force is that of the consumer. By choosing what to buy and what to avoid, consumers set the priorities for the industry. Clearly, eating sustainable vegetarian food in lieu of seafood or other animals is preferable, when possible. But for those times when one does wish to eat seafood, the Scientific American article points out a useful resource: Seafood Watch (www.seafoodwatch.org, Wikipedia), a program run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
You can browse through different seafood or search for the one you want. For different areas of the U.S., they have regional guides categorizing common seafood into best choices, ones to select with caution, and ones to avoid. PDF pocket guides are available as well. (You can also access a streamlined mobile version at http://mobile.seafoodwatch.org/.)The tricky aspect, though, is that the same fish can be sometimes be a good or bad choice, depending on where or how it was caught. For instance, U.S. mahi mahi is a good choice, but not necessarily from elsewhere in the world (due to U.S. policies regulating its fishing). This means that you will have to look at labels at markets or ask your server at restaurants to determine if a certain menu item is a responsible item or not. If your server doesn’t know, ask him or her to ask the chef, and if the origin still can’t be reliably determined, select something else. If people keep asking questions, perhaps next time they’ll make sure they know where their seafood comes from.
Seafood Watch also has a lot more information, including highlighting which fishing practices are harmful and why, and other actions you can take.