Thursday, March 31, 2011

This Week I Will Eat Sustainable Fish

I almost missed it, but March 22nd was World Water Day. I got lots of email about freshwater scarcity (hard to imagine this time of year with mudslides and flooded roads), looming droughts and acidification of our oceans. Like with global warming I found the environmental issues concerning fresh and ocean water completely overwhelming. I basically just looked at the pretty pictures of fish and frogs sent by the Nature Conservancy and crawled under a soon-to-be-dry rock. Then I heard a radio show on the Oceana organization, whose sole focus is ocean conservation. They talked about the problems of over fishing and destructive fishing practices like bottom trawling and how one way we can help is by eating sustainable fish. Now, that I can do.

I realize that for many people what fish to eat is not a frequent issue, but as I’ve mentioned before, I rarely serve red meat. Add to that, my ten-year-old is crazy about fish. I want to give him food that both sustainable and healthy, so it’s time for me to look into this.

Why Bother?
“The oceans supply us with food, help regulate our climate, and supply a livelihood for millions of people…But our seas are not the infinite bounty they appear to be. Today, no part of our oceans remains unaffected by human activities. And among the many factors influencing our ocean ecosystems, none has a greater impact than fishing…Over the past five decades technology has allowed us to fish farther, deeper and more efficiently than ever before. In 2003, the Pew Oceans Commission warned that the world's oceans are in a state of ‘silent collapse’ ” – Seafood Watch, Monterey Bay Aquarium

How Will It Help To Change The Fish I Eat?
I actually might not need to change what I serve my family, but I do need to check what’s okay and what’s not. For example, I was surprised to learn that farmed salmon is much worse for the environment than wild-caught Alaskan salmon. According to Sea Watch, wild-caught Alaskan salmon is among the most intensively managed species in the world, with excellent monitoring of both the fish populations and fisheries and their freshwater sources are relatively pristine. On the other hand, most salmon farming is done in open pens and cages in coastal waters. Waste from these farms is released directly into the ocean. Parasites and diseases from farmed salmon can spread to wild fish swimming near the farms. Also, it generally takes three pounds of wild fish to grow one pound of farmed salmon. This is a huge problem for wild fish populations and the environment. And if that’s not bad enough, I found that Environmental Defense Fund has issued a health advisory for farmed salmon due to high levels of PCBs. Well, my son will be happy to learn that this week he’s getting wild-caught Alaskan salmon.

How Do I know What’s Right?
It’s a lot easier than ever before to keep on top of what fish to eat. There are printed materials, online information and even a phone app to get up-to-date recommendations for sustainable fish choices including ocean-friendly restaurants and businesses. This sounds great to use while I shop, since I don’t usually know what’s available.

I started off overwhelmed, but now I’m looking forward to getting some tasty, sustainably harvested fish. It’s a relief to know I don’t have to feel guilty and that there are good choices to be made.

Sustainable seafood phone apps

Monthly sustainable seafood recipes

Growing your own update: It’s time for many of use to start our herb and vegetable seeds indoors. I’ve already got most of mine sprouted because I just couldn’t wait. I started almost everything in empty plastic food containers, so hang on to your used yogurt cups and muffin clamshells! They make great pots and trays.

“Tikkun Olam” means, in its most basic form, repairing the world. It is an ancient term from long before we worried about carbon emissions or mercury in our fish. It promotes the idea that we are the stewards of our planet and we that must be constant and vigilant in our responsibility. And not only must we take care of the Earth and seas and creatures, but we have to fix what is broken. And this is our job for as long as we are on this planet.

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