Something’s Fishy… How to Enjoy Fish Sustainably

Good morning!

Many people are thinking about their mums and presents on this year’s Mother’s day but I am thinking about fish!  (as I will see my mum in a couple of weeks’ time).

In yesterday’s post I started writing about the Fish Fight and the waste caused my some silly EU laws.

But how sustainable is fish in the first place?

Sustainable Fish Finger Octopus

The best tools and articles I have found so far regarding fish sustainability are Greenpeace’s “Fish Matters Guide” and National Geographic’s absolutely fantastic and interactive “The Impact of Seafood” article.

The main thing is, the most popular types of fish are the most endangered: cod and tuna stocks are in constant decline because of their high fishing demand.

Have you noticed how so many cooking programmes always show cod, cod, cod recipes? And when you go to the shops, there are always rows of tuna and prawns sandwiches?

To avoid upsetting the whole seafood chain and the terrible consequences to the ecosystem caused by overfishing, when we choose to eat fish we should choose less popular, more sustainable types of fish (and don’t worry, there are many that are just as lovely and healthy!).

It’s a fact: overfishing and destructive fishing methods are seriously damaging the oceans.

So, where can you buy fish that is sourced responsibly?

  • Co-Operative: They are always a safe option for sustainable, environmentally aware and responsibly sourced products;
  • Waitrose
  • Sainsbury’s
  • M&S

-How can you make a difference to how fish is sourced?

  • Try local fish – the origin of the fish will be on the label and fishmongers always seem to be happy to provide extra information on the source of the fish, how to cook them…
  • Choose small fish: smaller species of fish are less endangered than big predators (tuna, cod, salmon…)
  • Avoid fish caught with fish aggregating devices: these attract far more fish than intended, including dolphins and turtles, which are then thrown back into the sea, dead!!  Scandalous!
  • Choose fish caught with more selective, sustainable fishing methods such as pole and line:

Pole and Line Fishermen Catch Tuna – Greenpeace Picture

As described by Greenpeace: “Fishermen use pole and line fishing method to catch skipjack tuna.

Pole and line fishing is a selective and therefore more sustainable way to catch tuna as only fish of a certain size are caught, leaving juveniles to grow to spawning age and replenish the stock in the future.

Small bait fish are thrown over the side of the boat to lure the tuna to the water surface. The fishermen use the acceleration of the fish as they race to get their prey, hook them and fling them onto the ship’s flat deck”.

  • But if you can, actually avoid buying fish from stocks that are under pressure, the BIG 5 to avoid are:
  •  TUNA
  • COD
  • Also included in the Red List are Sharks, Eel, Hake, Atlantic and Greenland Halibut, European Plaice, Shrimps, Skates and Rays, Sole, Swordfish…check the rest on the Greenpeace International Seafood Red List;
  • Buy from stocks that are less under pressure; you be might be thinking “What is left that is actually ok to eat?” so I highly recommend watching or catching up with Jamie’s Fish Suppers,  where Jamie Oliver shows all the great alternatives to the endangered fish that are fine to buy and eat such as mackerel, coley, trout, dab, mussels, pouting, herring, crab, squid, sardines (click on the names to see the DELICIOUS recipes).
  • Eat less fish, and better sourced: you will appreciate it more!

-To check the updated status of any fish’s sustainability have a look at the interactive “The Impact of Seafood” chart where each fish has a sustainability ranking out of 4, with 4 being the most sustainable.

It’s actually fun to use and also shows which food chain level the fish occupies, the toxicity level, the omega 3 content, the World’s seafood footprint…it’s great!

For example, a great alternative to the ever-popular cod (the Atlantic one has a low sustainability raking of 1.2)  is Alaskan pollock (sustainability ranking 3.5), mostly used for Birdseye and Young’s fish fingers.

Fish Finger Monster

-Other great sources of information:

The Marine Conservation Society website;

-Take a look at the  Fish2Fork website, fabulous to look up restaurants and check if the fish they are serving comes from sustainable sources;

-National Geographic’s Seafood Substitutions article;

-How much do you know about fish? Take the Seafood Quiz;

-Overfishing: check the pictures;

More about the Ocean;

-“The End of the Line“, a documentary based on Charles Clover’s book “The End of the Line: How Overfishing Is Changing the World and What We Eat” about the consequences of overfishing premiered at Sundance Festival;

How do you choose the fish you buy?

Would you try different types of fish if they were more sustainable?

Leave a comment, I would love to know what you think!

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