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Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Picking the Right Fish in the Sea: Selecting Sustainable Seafood

For generations the  ocean has been both a source of awe
and inspiration as well as physical needs. 
Have you ever had the chance to watch a wave from the ocean roll onto the shore? Somewhere beyond the horizon and farther than you can see, all the right motions started that wave, and you can only imagine all the life and stones and forgotten wrecks that it passed over on its journey.

Sushi is a personal family favourite for making and eating,
but the imitation crab should be selected carefully.
The vast blue seas have long been a source of awe, inspiration, and resources for humans, but as with anything, unsustainable human activity can have serious consequences to marine wildlife and ecosystems (and by inevitable extension, to humans). While the practices place direct impacts on marine ecosystems, consumers have the power the either fuel that damage or reduce it back based on where we spend money.

If you are vegetarian or vegan than you have already eliminated that problem entirely in your case, but for fellow fish-eaters, some organizations have developed research tools to help select the right fish in the sea (for your plate).

Some people reading this may have stopped with the thought, "what about the wellbeing of the people who rely on fishing as a livelihood?" This is a valid concern regardless of how or what they catch. However, if the marine ecosystem collapses then the same fish populations they must draw from will be adversely affected as well as other species that are connected to it. Put simply: Hurt the fish, no fish to catch, no fish to sell, and no fish to eat.

Many people have depended on fishing for generations, but with changes in technology and fishing methods what once was a sustainable tradition has gone sadly overboard in many cases. It is for the long-term benefit of both humans and wildlife that we make more sustainable choices. 

"When the last tree has been cut, the last fish caught, the last river poisoned, only then will we realize that one cannot eat money." - Native American Saying (source:

There are a number of online resources but here are a few that I have found to be particularly helpful which evaluate seafoods based on when, how, and what is being caught relative to sustainability. When using these to compare fish and other seafood products remember to check for the specific species, where it came from, and the method (eg. troll, wild, farmed)

Sea Choice ( is a nice and full online database with lots of straight-to-the-point charts. If you search something like "tuna" it is easy to compare various options all side-by-side, and if you would like more details you can click on the specific name.

This database is extensive and has easy-to-compare charts for comparing different variants which is good because one detail can make all the difference between 'good choice' and 'stay away'. When researching something like 'tuna' which renders a long list of results, the search function (control+F on Windows) can be very useful in highlighting specific criteria when evaluating a specific product.

Sea choice was also sourced for David Suzuki's Top 10 Sustainable Seafood Picks ( From the graphics to immediately listing "Ask For" and "Avoid" for each type, I love the intuitive layout of this list. It immediateky addresses questions people will probably have and this flow continues under "More>>" which includes not only cooking information and a recipe but things to learn about the animal itself.

Although it may not feel good to think about how the animal your are eating was once alive, it can encourage respect. Learning about the species as wildlife including the way it once looked and the things it would have done can help encourage deeper respect and appreciation for it.

Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch ( is another online database which like Sea Choice includes important details. Although details are not always given immediately, the strength of this one lies in the portability of a free app which does not require wi-fi once updates are downloaded (great for grocery shopping), and printable guides.  California rolls are a family favourite in our house for eating and a benefit when we make our own is being able to be more aware of the source of fish we use in it and make choices accordingly. If you like sushi, the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch also has a sushi guide.

If you're interested in reading more about sustainable eating, here is an older post with a few more tips(

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