Choosing Safe Sustainable Fish in California
Summer is pretty much here, and folks will want to throw more than a few shrimp on the bar’b! That’s why I wanted to talk to you a bit about choosing safe sustainable seafood and why it’s so important.
Seafood should be both tasty and healthy to eat but these days we do have to be concerned about where it was sourced, and whether it was sourced sustainably. Pollution finds its way into the food chain and can contaminate fish in some areas, and large scale fishing can deplete their stocks to really low levels. Luckily the internet gives us access to the information we need to make wise choices around what seafood we eat, whether it is safe or contaminated, and whether it was sourced using sustainable practices.
One of the best sites to help you make a good choice is Seafood Watch, managed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.
Besides providing detailed information on how safe the seafood is and where the best seasonal sources come from, it’s also a good place for information about the ocean problems we face and how we, as consumers and businesses, can help through the choices we make when buying seafood.
Another good source of information for understanding the oceans, our impact on them and what’s safe to eat is Slow Fish. They offer a wide variety of detail on what we may want to think about when purchasing fish and some of the best practices we can employ in our everyday decisions.
Some of the responsible seafood suppliers have informational websites too. Two of my favorites are the Monterey Fish Market and Royal Hawaiian Seafood. I love them both because the seafood is always super fresh and I can trust the response when I ask “when was this caught”?
The Monterey Fish Market site has lots of information listing different fishing methods and their impact on the environment, where different seafoods are sourced and how they’re caught. It also has a wealth of information about health issues, and links to other resources on the environment that help you to make informed choices.
Another one of my favorites is Royal Hawaiian Seafood. They support local fishermen/women, all their stock is fished sustainably, it’s tested for contamination, and they can provide traceability for all their stock! Their Facebook page is also a great place to find seafood recipe ideas.
No matter where you shop for your seafood, always ask questions about it and if you’re able, touch and smell the fish before you purchase it. Here are four things you should look for when purchasing fish and other seafood:
- Look carefully at the color–there should be no brown spots or discoloration. Fish flesh should look vibrant and opaque; and the skin should be shiny when the scales are removed.
- Always smell your fish before you buy it–seafood should not have a fishy odor and should smell faintly like the salt of the sea. If you can smell it, it’s probably not as fresh as you would like.
- Ask to touch the fish–a light touch with one finger will do; and you should feel a slight spring back of the flesh. If a dent or a break is created without much pressure added, the fish is likely not fresh.
- Eyes and Shells–fish eyes should look clear and bold; and the shells of mollusks and shrimp should be intact and fully closed (or close quickly when tapped). Cloudy eyes and broken or open shells are a sign that the seafood is not fresh or has not been handled and stored properly. Dually, with shellfish, a closed shell that does not open upon cooking should be discarded. A shell that doesn’t open (in a pan over heat) is a sign of a dead mollusk and can cause sickness if eaten.
We are Blessed in the Bay Area to be surrounded with an abundance of healthy food options. Hopefully this blog post will give you some food for thought, and help you to find safe, sustainable, locally sourced seafood for your table!