Being a Sustainable Seafood Ambassador with the Monterey Bay Aquarium and knowing that many of the large fish in the ocean are being fished to near extinction (e.g. bluefin tuna, chilean sea bass, marlin…), I began doing a little research into aquaculture, as a sustainable alternative.
What I have been discovering, however, is that aquaculture can be equally unsustainable.
- to make 1 pound of farmed salmon, you need 2 to 5 pounds of smaller fish (fished from the ocean) to feed that salmon.
- Many times the fish are overcrowded and this can lead to disease and then the inevitable use of antibiotics. (Sounds like a familiar practice used on land?)
- On top of that, since fish farming happens around the world, even though the FDA may have banned some of the antibiotics (deeming them unsafe for use), these drugs may end up on your plate as regulations in other countries differ.
- Sometimes the fish farms are in pens in the ocean and are very susceptible to being destroyed by the elements, e.g. a storm. When the fish escape it can be devastating to the natural habitat as the fish may be diseased (not to mention there are now GMO salmon being farmed).
So, what farmed seafood is safe?
Tilapia is a great choice because it is an herbivore so it does not need fishing to sustain it. It can also be raised in close quarters and is quite resilient to disease. Shellfish, like oysters and clams, is another good option as they are raised in the ocean and actually clean/filter the ocean water. The farming is extremely sustainable, causing beneficial effects to the environment rather than depleting it.
The best thing you can do is research and ask questions. Grab your Latte and go have a chat with your local fishmonger. Find out where the fish you are buying comes from and how it was caught. You can also ask these questions when you go out to eat.
There are sustainably caught fish and farming practices. We just have to ask the right questions and cast our vote with our dollar.