Sustainability has become a buzzword in recent years among seafood lovers, as we’ve become more aware of the precarious state of the world’s seafood populations. Here in Las Vegas, diners know they can trust the fish offered at RM Seafood and Border Grill to be 100 percent sustainable. But what can you do when you’re dining elsewhere, or shopping for seafood to cook at home?
In addition to its website and pocket guides, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch (SeafoodWatch.org) offers a regularly updated free app for Apple and Android devices that tells you which species fall on their red list (species to avoid) and which qualify as either green (best choices) or yellow (good alternatives). In the meantime, here are five that you should always avoid and, in some cases, suggestions for more responsible substitutions.
The most prized and expensive variety of tuna is also the most endangered, thanks to its popularity among sushi aficionados. According to a report last year in The Guardian, the bluefish population in the Northern Pacific has dropped more than 96 percent. If you want tuna, stick with yellowfin or ahi, as long as it comes from the U.S. or Hawaii.
This common fish is another one on the red list due to its endangered status. The website GoodFishBadFish.com suggests substituting whiting, bream or gurnard.
The popularity of shark-fin soup as a status symbol in the Chinese community has led to the practice of finning, in which sharks are caught, have their fins cut off and are released back into the ocean to drown. It’s cruel, wasteful and is decimating the shark population. Because sharks (like bluefin) are top-level predators, their shrinking numbers affect many levels of the ocean ecosystem.
FARM-RAISED ATLANTIC SALMON
Salmon isn’t endangered, thanks in part to the practice of farming. But most of those farms—which are actually giant pens in the ocean—have a devastating effect on the surrounding areas thanks to the hormones and pesticides used as well as the large concentration of waste. If you want to enjoy salmon, your best bet is to purchase a wild-caught variety. Or try arctic char, a green-list fish that’s very similar.
Looking at Seafood Watch’s sushi guide, there are a few familiar products that are sadly in the red column. The most prevalent of these is probably yellowtail, or hamachi. Fortunately, there are plenty of green and yellow alternatives, including sweet shrimp, yellowfin tuna, wild-caught salmon, mackerel and sea urchin.