|Seafood 101: Sustainability & Other Things to Consider|
|Written by Written by Dominique de Groot,Four Green Steps|
|Wednesday, 12 September 2012 00:00|
Written by Dominique de Groot,Four Green Steps
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Most of us have heard about the benefits of a vegetarian diet on our personal health and the health of the planet. But if you are anything like me, it can sometimes be difficult to turn down a nice tuna sandwich or a sushi dinner. Luckily eating fish once or twice a week has been proven to have many health benefits, including reducing the risk of diseases such as asthma, dementia, heart disease and even some forms of cancer!
Fish and other forms of seafood are great sources of protein and omega-3 fatty acids, and they often have less fat and environmental impacts than other meats. This being said, it is important to note that all fishing has some impacts on our global environment, but some seafood choices are far better for ourselves and our planet then others. These better choices are known as sustainable seafood options as they can be consumed without seriously jeopardizing the stock or ecosystem from which they came.
Although there are many programs, such as Sea Choice and Ocean Wise, that help us identify sustainable seafood choices in North America, consumer guides and smart phone apps for responsible seafood purchasing exist worldwide and are readily available on the web. If you find that the choices are still unclear, there are some simple things that you can keep in mind when buying seafood items:
What are the impacts of fishing on this seafood species?
Consider if the species has been over-fished or if its wild stock is at a healthy level. Generally, if a fish is known to reproduce later in life, such as Rockfish or Orange Roughy, its population is more vulnerable to overfishing in comparison to species that grows quickly and breeds young, such as Anchovies, Sardines and many shellfish.
What are the impacts of fishing on non-targeted species in the area where this seafood item has been caught?
Consider that some seafood items are associated with an excessive amount of by-catch. By-catch can include birds, mammals and other marine organisms. For example long lines used to catch Swordfish also snare turtles, sharks, dolphins and rare seabirds. Try and avoid purchasing seafood that has been caught by methods known to produce these negative and wasteful results.
Is there ecosystem or habitat damage associated with the fishing or farming of this species?
Some fishing and aquaculture practices, such as dynamite fishing in coral reefs and the removal of mangrove forests in favor of tiger prawn farms reduce critical habitats that many marine species depend on. When buying seafood, look for that which was obtained by fishing methods with minimal environmental impacts to key areas such as feeding and spawning grounds or nurseries for marine life.
Making an effort to choose sustainable seafood at restaurants and the supermarket can be a simple and effective way to help ensure that we have healthy oceans, abundant in a diversity of marine life, for future generations. Be an ocean-conscious consumer and help us all enjoy fish forever!
Image courtesy of Creative Commons.
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