Fish Picks: Your guide to healthy, eco-friendly seafood.
By ordering those fish dishes, we may be contributing to a culture that negatively impacts the ecosystem through overfishing or irresponsible practices that create collateral damage like killing loggerhead turtles and seabirds. Many of the larger carnivorous fish contain high traces of contaminants like mercury, which means that the yellowfin sashimi we all enjoy washing down with a bullet can of Sapporo could be harming our health.
The good news is there are alternatives that are both healthy and sustainable, and many times these alternatives are sold for considerably less than their eco-unfriendly counterparts.
Avoid: Atlantic farmed salmon. Just like the industrial farming complex on dry land, these salmon are packed into overcrowded pens and pumped full of antibiotics. Their waste runoff pollutes the local marine ecosystem. Alternative: wild Alaskan salmon. Unlike Sarah Palin's rise to power, salmon fishing in Alaska is well-planned, safe and intelligently executed. Sure, it's a bit more expensive than the farmed variety, but it tastes much better.
Avoid: Chilean sea bass. Due to the huge demand from the U.S., Patagonian toothfish shrewdly marketed as Chilean sea bass are wildly overfished by illegal fishing operations. Estimates say twice the legal limit are poached in a given year. Alternative: striped bass. New Jersey fishermen haul in these stripers after they spawn southward and make their late spring pilgrimage north to New England, ensuring a fresh population the following year.
Avoid: red snapper from the Gulf of Mexico. Snapper are overfished, killed accidentally by shrimp boats or are victims of the pollution accrued after many offshore drilling platforms damaged by hurricanes spilled oil into the gulf. Alternative: herring (Atlantic sardines). Not a straight-up exchange (herring has a higher oil content), but the presence of more Omega-3 fatty acids benefit your brain, heart and muscles.
Avoid: imported shrimp. Unregulated shrimp trawls scoop up huge shrimp catches and everything else in the way of the net, including sea turtles. These animals, known as bycatch, are thrown back but usually after they've been killed. Alternative: domestic shrimp. Large populations in American waters and advanced technology like the Turtle Excluder Device allow for a more environmentally sound harvest.
Avoid: longline-caught tuna, albacore, bigeye and yellowfin. Contaminants are present because of their higher place on the fish food chain. Dead turtles, dead birds, dead humans ... need we say more? Alternative: skipjack tuna. Also known as bonito, this fish has a lower mercury content and is caught with troll poles rather than multihook longline poles. This eliminates bycatch killing.
Avoid: cod. Less than 50 years ago, New England fishermen were catching cod weighing in at 80 pounds each. Today they haul in 10-pound cod on a regular basis. These immature fish haven't been given the opportunity to propagate their species, leaving numbers to dwindle at an alarming rate. Alternative: wild Alaskan pollock. Most fisheries with this fish are certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council standard. Beer-battered fish and chips, here we come.
John Yi Fish Market,
Reading Terminal Market,
45 N. 12th St.
1300 Dickinson St.
1101 S. Ninth St.
Give us this weekend our daily bread