What is “sustainable seafood”? Put simply, sustainable practices should meet our current needs in a way that does not compromise the ability to meet the needs of the future. This is a hot topic, and there are a lot of things to keep track of. Season, fishing method, by catch, country of origin…. And every type of fish has different needs and qualifications for “best practices”. All of these choices can be dizzying on top of the task of simply choosing a product that is fresh, healthy and safe to eat.
If you sometimes feel like all of these choices (and their seasonality) is difficult to keep track of, there are some tricks to shopping for seafood that will help you get the best quality meal that is good for you and the ocean.
At the grocery store, here are some things to look for:
- Fish fillets should look shiny and glistening with and even color.
- Prepackaged fish should be fresh—no older than (or not thawed for longer than) 1 or 2 days.
- Shellfish: Live crabs and lobsters should be active; frozen or precooked should be packed on ice, with no more than a mild smell. Clams and mussels should be closed tightly—store them on ice and uncovered (don’t suffocate them in a plastic bag).
- Caught in the USA. America is a leader in seafood sustainability and regulations. It isn’t a perfect system, but for the most part you can be assured that fish caught locally are well-managed. Fish caught abroad can be sustainable, but it may take more research to find that out.
- “Certified sustainable”. There are several third party agencies that try to make buying sustainable quick and easy. You can look for seals of approval from organizations such as: Marine Stewardship Council and Seafood Watch. Just keep in mind that no system is without flaws.
Here are some great resources to learn more about buying and preparing seafood safely:
Cook up something good for your family and for the ocean this holiday season and share your favorite seafood recipes!