The following post by Carl Safina appeared in the New York Times Blog ‘Room for Debate,’ June 9, 2009. For a full version of the blog, click here.
The Smaller the Fish, the Better
I’m not your typical consumer. I’m a scientist, writer, fisherman, New Yorker, scuba diver — for a living, I think about how the ocean is changing and what the changes mean for people. When I step up to a seafood counter, I think about the ocean we used to have, what we have now and what we want in the future.
The thing is, life changes and the answers to the questions I think about change over time. Swordfish, once the target of a successful consumer boycott, are doing much better now.
Do your homework before hitting the seafood counter.
In general, the smaller the fish the better. Bigger, longer-lived fish tend to be higher in mercury, slower to mature and reproduce, and therefore more depleted by overfishing. Farmed oysters, mussels and clams tend to be very sustainable and can actually improve local water quality. Domestic shrimp is O.K. these days, imported shrimp has problems. Environmentally, wild salmon is a better pick than farmed. Halibut? Go with Pacific. For lobsters: Atlantic or Australian are best-managed. Mahimahi reproduce abundantly and grow very fast. Sharks, snappers, groupers are not the best from a health or conservation standpoint. About half the seafood we evaluate is generally O.K. to eat with a good conscience, and the other half, well, you might want to skip it.
Do your homework — carry a wallet guide, surf the Web, hop on Facebook — before hitting the seafood counter, there are good resources at the ready.
Care. Ask questions. Decide. Repeat. Bon appetite.