The Fish List

Last night Jeb, Kathy, Susan, and I took Mom and Dad out for Mom’s 65th birthday. We went to a seafood restaurant and had a great meal and enjoyed getting to spend such a landmark day with Mom. At some point I mentioned the fish list that I keep in my Palm to say what kinds of seafoods are being harvested sustainably and which are not. There have been a number of fish that have been so overfished that not enough are left and the fishery has had to be closed until stocks recover. That means no one gets to enjoy eating those fish anymore and fishermen are put out of work. The fishermen respond to demand and seem unable to regulate themselves so there is room for a solution on the demand side, namely everyone who eats seafood.

We did pretty well last night and although the menu included fish that should be avoided like Monkfish and Atlantic Salmon, we made better choices. One of our few missteps was in ordering shrimp, but even so we didn’t get very many.

It is easy to make good choices without sacrificing quality. Alaskan Salmon is a good choice along with some kinds of crab. Farmed fish like catfish, tilapia, rainbow trout, mussels, and oysters are good too. Blackened redfish became so popular in the 90’s that redfish were nearly wiped out. And it was pointless because people really were after the seasoning and that method of cooking more than redfish. Susan got the blackened tilapia last night and said it was very good.

Shrimp is worth mentioning for a few reasons. First in the Gulf of Mexico trawlers catch 3 pounds of other kinds of fish, turtles, etc. for every pound of shrimp. The bycatch is usually discarded consisting of immature fish and crabs, but they are killed in the process. In other countries (Thailand was mentioned) the bycatch might be 14 pounds for every pound of shrimp caught. In addition to the bycatch, habitat is destroyed as the nets drag the bottom of the ocean. On our trip to Baja one of the naturalists compared shrimping to bulldozing the forest to catch a deer.

Farmed shrimp aren’t much better. Usually these are raised by destroying coastal areas that support wildlife and protect the shore from erosion. So there is a huge loss of habitat. Also these countries are dumping huge amounts of shrimp at very low prices putting pressure on US shrimpers who use more environmentally aware techniques. The party rings of shrimp don’t taste good and are horrible for the environment.

At Monterey Bay Aquarium there is a story for each fish about why choices are good and why they might be bad. There are a lot of reasons to avoid certain types of fish and they go into very good detail. Reasons might be overfishing, fish population in decline already, too much bycatch, or environmentally damaging harvesting or farming techniques.

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