Monday, October 26, 2009

Eco-friendly seafood choices

We’re a family that loves fish and seafood, which is great for a few reasons: It’s tasty, quick and easy to prepare and loaded with things that are good for you. But there are things about fish and seafood that aren’t so great.

There was a time when we’d by salmon fillets in 10 pound boxes we at so much of it. But that was a few years ago, before some worrisome information about salmon farming came to light. There have been many issues with fish farming, but the one that stuck with me is the fact that most farmed Atlantic salmon has up to seven times more PCB’s than wild Pacific salmon, due to contaminants in fishmeal they’re fed. (There are many studies that document this fact so don’t think that environmentalists are hanging onto one old study.) And one more thing, the pink flesh of farmed salmon is thanks to a dye in the fishmeal, since the flesh of farmed salmon is naturally grey.

There are many benefits to eating salmon, namely the abundance of omega 3 fatty acids in the flesh. But I don’t think that outweighs the risk of PCB consumption. Plus, there are other sources of omega 3s, like sustainably-fished Pacific salmon, flax seed and chia.

Unfortunately PCB’s aren’t the only worry with fish. Mercury is another and there are several species of fish that have especially high levels of the neurotoxin. Mercury is extremely harmful to pregnant women and children and even low levels of exposure can cause developmental problems.

Because of mercury contamination Health Canada recommends that pregnant women eat fresh tuna no more than once a month. Canned tuna, as long as its light tuna (skipjack is what you want) is okay to eat weekly. Stay away from white or albacore tuna - it has three times the mercury level of light tuna. There are similar mercury alerts for Atlantic halibut, swordfish, sea bass and several others.

Health issues aside there are the worries of destructive fishing methods, over fishing, pollution and habitat destruction that are depleting fish stocks at an alarming rate.

So how do you know what fish you should be choosing? Here are a few guidelines:
• Canned salmon is usually okay. More often than not it’s sockeye or pink from Alaska, which are among the better-managed fish stocks in the U.S. They are also low in contaminants.
• Fresh water farmed fish can be a great eco option, since it’s grown in contained ponds so is less environmentally destructive. Farmed rainbow trout is a good alternative to farmed salmon. Superstore is the only place I have been able to find fresh rainbow trout.
• Frozen Alaskan pollock and salmon are healthy and eco-friendly options too. Look for them in the frozen fish section of Sobeys and Superstore.
Don’t worry about committing all of this to memory. Instead print out one of these handy wallet guides to help you navigate the grocery store. and

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