Who Really Knows What And What Not To Eat?

16 06 2009

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is widely known for it’s conservation efforts. They publish a list of fish which are listed as “best choice,” “good alternative,” and “avoid” for sustainable consumption. sfw_factsheet.aspx?gid=32 When I was there a few years ago, I studied this list and noticed something interesting. The restaurant inside the Monterey Bay Aquarium, The Portola, featured monkfish on the menu, a fish that the Aquarium listed as “avoid” due to the harmful method of trawl fishing that is used to catch them. monkfish How are we as consumers supposed to know and trust what fish to buy and eat? In my opinion, the best method of buying (wild species) is to find out the origin of the fish and the fishing method. 

Alaska has one of the best fisheries because of regulation. (Most of my fishing cohorts believe it is heavily, overly regulated.) There are many methods of commercial fishing. Nets, also called purse seines or seine nets, trap thousands of pounds of fish at a time. This method is reasonable, and it’s how most wild salmon are caught. Trawls, or dredges are also used, which essentially rake the ocean bottom and haul up the catch. This is the worst method of fishing due to the amount of byproduct that is wasted and it’s harm caused. Gill netting is another method used which ensnares and entangles the fish in a net.  Using hooks in methods like long lining and trolling is the best method due to the quality of the fish caught (less bruising) and the minimal effects on the environment. Harpooning is less common, but also an excellent alternative fishing method.

Some shellfish, scallops for example, are mostly trawled for, however, you can find some that are caught by divers. The best way to buy seafood is to be as environmentally conscious as you can knowing that by eating seafood, like almost everything else, you are inevitably contributing to some aspect of destruction. When you eat anything, you should generally try to be as knowledgeable as you can to minimalize your impact on the environment around you.