If you’re trying to eat less meat, be it for health or environmental reasons, a common approach is to eat more fish. It’s a healthy alternative to meat that’s easy to find and simple to prepare.
Switching to fish can have environmental pit falls though and some potential health concerns, depending on what types of fish you like to buy. Figuring out what fish is healthiest for you and the environment can be very complicated so I rely on a couple of credible organizations that lay it all out for me, listing best-to-worst seafood choices in handy wallet cards and smart phone apps.
One organization is SeaChoice, a Canadian group that was formed by a number of Canadian conservation organizations to help consumers navigate the murky waters of sustainable seafood. The organization produces a comprehensive guide that clearly lists your best choices for seafood, the okay choices, and seafood that you should avoid.
According to SeaChoice, your best choices are species that are abundant, have well managed fisheries, and are fished or farmed in an environmentally sustainable way. On this list you’ll find choices like wild Alaskan salmon, farmed rainbow trout (freshwater), and Alaskan halibut.
The next best category lists fish that may be threatened in some way (mostly related to how they’re fished). SeaChoice recommends that fish in this category be eaten infrequently or only when the best choice isn’t available. You’ll find haddock, lobster and some Pacific cod in this category.
The avoid category lists fish that have a combination of problems: poorly managed fishery, farming practices that cause environmental damage, or they’re over fished. Atlantic salmon, shrimp and tilapia farmed in
Asia, and Atlantic halibut are some common fish in this category.
Another guide that I find helpful is Seafood Watch, developed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in
(and the basis of the SeaChoice guide above.) Seafood Watch produces a guide for the U.S. North East which applies to the seafood that we find most often in our stores. Seafood Watch also has a best-good-avoid approach but it also layers in health info, flagging fish that is a concern due to mercury or PCB contamination (like swordfish and most tuna). California
In the Seafood Watch guide, you’ll notice that the “Best Choice” list includes just three with contamination concerns, while the “Avoid” list contains ten fish that you should limit your consumption of due to mercury or PCB contamination. It’s proof that environmentally-friendly seafood choices are healthier for you too.
My favourite part of this guide is the “Super Green” list, a selection of seafood that is healthy to eat (low in environmental contaminants, high in omega-3 fatty acids) and is fished or farmed in an ocean-friendly way. The best of both worlds. Rainbow trout, wild-caught Pacific salmon and farmed mussels are some of the choices on this list.
This guide is updated twice a year and is available as a smart phone app and a printable wallet guide. Visit seafoodwatch.org and seachoice.org for more information.