Just like the clothes we buy and the car we drive, what we decide to eat is an extension of our personality. What we eat defines who we are. So in my opinion, deciding what to eat comes down to values.
I was raised to love the ocean. I grew up in Southern California and spent my summers at my grandmother’s beach house, half a block from the ocean. I swam in the ocean daily because it made me feel good. Not until college, was I introduced to the notion that I was directly harming the ocean that I had always loved. No, I was not dumping toxins or polluting the beaches. But I became aware of the fact that I was taking from the ocean in a manner that was destroying its food chain. And by “taking,” I mean I was eating fish that were harvested unsustainably. Although I grew up thinking the ocean was vast, it turns out that 80% of the world’s fisheries have been depleted, or are on the verge of depletion.
Evaluating the ethics of where our food comes from, knowing how food was harvested and whether the stock is on the verge of depletion, is an onerous process. But I have learned that, in general, it is wise to avoid imported fish. Aquaculture can be a better practice, but 70% of the world’s fish farms are in Asia where practices are not safe by US standards. Asian fish farms use substances that are banned in the US to keep their fish stock alive in polluted waters. Illegal veterinary drugs and pesticides are often injected into the fish feed. Likewise, seafood fraud, where the listed country of origin is not transparent, is common practice. And unfortunately, less than 1% of imported fish is inspected.
But despite all of the listed doom and gloom, there is an easy solution in deciding what fish to eat: Stick to eating US fish. US fish is inspected for safety, and US fish generally comes from a healthy supply chain. But since there are always exceptions to a rule, so check out my go-to guides below.
The first guide is a great supermarket guide. The dirty dozen of fish are listed, and the guide also offers good alternatives for every fish to avoid.
The second link goes to the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Guide. It is the Bible for eating fish. Download the handy app and use it at restaurants. It has a fantastic comprehensive sushi guide!
Thanks for reading, and enjoy your food responsibly!
ENR Food Resiliency Fellow