The new year is a great time to reflect on how you would like to improve your life, even in small ways. We have thought of five easy ways we can help the oceans and our health through our choices of seafood this year.
1) Eat lower on the food chain
Eating things like tilapia, catfish, or shellfish puts the least pressure on ocean ecosystems because critters lower down on the food chain consume less or no fish themselves. Tilapia, catfish, and carp are primarily vegetarian fish, and shellfish are filter feeders!
Feeling adventurous? Try some squishy jellyfish; they’re about as low as you can go.
2) Know where your seafood is from
Ask questions! The difference between shrimp raised in Thailand and Texas is not only a matter of carbon footprint but of best fishing and farming practices. Eating locally is also fantastic, since you might be able to speak to the fisherman or farmer directly. But if not, at least try and buy domestically sourced seafood.
3) Eat healthfully
Choose fish that do the least harm to the ocean but also the least harm to you! Websites like Kidsafe and the Harvard School of Public Health help guide your choices of fish to make sure you are eating a healthy source of seafood.
There are many contaminants that find their way into the ocean, such as industrial contaminants like mercury and PCBs. These toxins get into the seafood we eat by first contaminating the organisms lowest on the food chain. As bigger fish eat the smaller fish, the contaminants increase in concentration up the food chain (since bigger fish eat many smaller fish). This process is known as bioaccumulation and biomagnification. Another reason to eat fish that are low on the food chain. Don’t forget the sardines!
4) Buy seasonally
Be aware of the spawning seasons of your favorite fish. Fishing closures like the one set from January-April for black groupers help protect these fish during their peak spawning seasons, giving them a little help to ensure there will be more fish produced down the line.
5) Eat sustainably farmed
Fish farms come in all shapes and sizes (and degrees of impact)! US fish farms are some of the most tightly controlled fish farms, making sure that they are not polluting the environment, or giving feeding fish food full of pesticides or antibiotics.
Learning more about your fish farm will help you know for sure whether you are “voting with your fork” for cleaner practices. After all, voting for a healthier planet is also a vote for a healthier you. Eating sustainably farmed fish also takes pressure off the wild fish populations, as long as their fish feed isn’t taking even more fish from the oceans.
Want to learn more about sustainably farmed fish? Why not check out the documentary Fish Meat?