Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Choosing sustainable seafood, these helpful tools make it easier

Use this helpful guide to find healthy seafood

We eat a lot of seafood in our house and let me tell you, it isn’t easy being green. Finding sustainable seafood is my greatest eco food challenge, week after week.

Thankfully there are some helpful pocket guides and apps available that provide direction on the best fish and seafood to buy. Seachoice.org created a great tool for choosing ocean-friendly seafood that categorizes fish choices by colour (green, yellow, red) making it easy to identify seafood that is best to eat, and that which is fished or farmed in environmentally damaging ways. It also lists the fish that you should be wary of due to concerns about mercury or other contaminants.  Seafood Watch offers a similar guide. 
You can study these pocket guides and rate the seafood that you usually buy and you can print out a copy or download the app and review it as you hover over the fish counter. But wouldn’t it be nice if grocery stores did it for us? Wouldn’t it be great if “green” seafood was labeled the same way that organic produce is, with credible sustainability certifications that we could all trust? Or if the info necessary to make informed choices was at least on the label.
Someday we’ll get there but in the meantime, this is how our local grocery stores stack up in the latest seafood sustainability index released by Green Peace. The index rates supermarket chains’ sustainable seafood policies and is nudging companies toward an end to selling red listed seafood and irresponsible procurement practices.
This is the fourth year for the report card and there has been great progress among supermarket chains. It goes to show that consumer demand carries more weight than you might think.
Superstore (Loblaw) receives the highest grade in our region with a 68% and Sobeys and Co-op both received a 54%. Costco received a grade of 43% and was the only company in this year’s index to fail.

Ocean-friendly seafood is available at our local stores, you just need to look for it.

  • Fresh water trout gets a good rating because it’s farmed in land-based pens rather than ocean pens. For canned tuna choose chunk white albacore from Canada or the U.S. (Pacific).
  • Wild Alaskan salmon is a good choice as are farmed clams and mussels.  
  • As well, look for seafood (mostly frozen) with the Marine Stewardship Council certification logo (a blue fish).
  • Ironically, the only shrimp available locally that caries any sustainably certification is from Costco. The 31/40 size of the Aqua Star Purely Shrimp is Best Aquaculture Practices Certified (BAP), a certification standard that appears to have some credibility.
These certification programs aren’t perfect but they’re a step in the right direction. And they’re a good fallback when green choices on the sustainability guides aren’t available.

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