Ever since I was a little girl, I have loved seafood. From shellfish to mollusks to mackerel to trout, I loved and ate it all. Seafood tastes good, looks appealing and there’s no doubt that it has tons of health benefits. Fish is an excellent source of protein. It also has tons of super beneficial minerals like selenium (super potent antioxidant), phosphorus (helps maintain strong bones) and iodine (which helps regulate your thyroid to keep a healthy metabolism). Seafood is also a great source of omega-3’s. For instance, you can find studies that have shown that marine derived omega-3’s are associated with improved heart and brain functioning.
Troubling reports about seafood safety have led many people, myself included, to drastically limit our seafood consumption. The oceans, lakes, and rivers which most of our fish call home have been severely polluted by industrial operations. Mercury and poisons (dioxins) from industrial sources have made their way into our waterways. Sea creatures absorb these pollutants into their muscles. Some fish contain such high levels that it poses serious risks to unborn babies and young children.
Ethical questions about farming and fishing practices have been raised. Certain species are dying off rapidly because of harvesting pressures and techniques. Americans eat mostly imported seafood, 90% of the seafood consumed in the US comes from overseas. Oceanic resources in some impoverished nations has been depleted through over fishing to keep up with the demand. This problem is made even more preposterous by the fact that our nation exports one-third of its catch to other countries for high prices. This has led to a decrease in emphasis of utilizing American domestic waterways and ocean fronts as food sources, and we instead relegate them to mere dumping grounds. To help reverse this trend, there are some good seafood choices that one can make, to help shape fishing practice through the economics of demand.
Americans love shrimp and we eat about 4 pounds of it per person annually. What you may not know is that most of the shrimp we eat in the US comes from Asian farms. Asian farms are not as regulated and may overuse antibiotics and exploit their laborers. Some methods of shrimp fishing can be extremely destructive. Some fisherman use Otter trawls. Otter Trawls are known to damage the ocean floor. Often they catch and kill endangered species in the process.
If you are craving shrimp opt for domestic shrimp. North American wild-caught varieties such as northern shrimp, pink shrimp and spot prawns,for example, are a good choice. White shrimp farmed in the United States, Canada and Central America is also a good choice. They are farmed in closed tanks that create less pollution and have much stricter regulations.
Freshwater shrimp are more sustainably farmed and ethically caught than ocean shrimp. Look for certain labels before purchasing.
Independent regulatory groups will slap labels on shrimp they approve of. Marine Stewardship Council, Aquaculture Stewardship Council, and Naturland. Unfortunately, the USDA does not have official organic standards for seafood. Any label that claims the seafood is organic has no legal backing or accountability. Therefore no one is checking if it’s true or not.
Stay away from canned tuna. Most canned tuna is from large white albacore tuna. Albacore ingest more mercury in their diet rather than smaller skipjack light tuna. Imported tuna from foreign waters often use methods that have high levels of by-catch. Even if it says “dolphin safe” does not mean that other marine animals were not harmed. BPA is a hormone-mimicking compound. The chemical BPA has been linked to a variety of health issued and lines your canned goods.
If you love tuna, seek out the skipjack light tuna or line caught tuna. Make sure that it comes in BPA-free pouches instead of cans.
Mussels are delicious. You can have them in a nice white wine broth or coconut milk and they are very good for you. An excellent source of protein, selenium, manganese and omega-3’s, they also provide a good dose of B12.
Most mussels you can buy are farmed, which in this case, is a good thing. When suspended in waterways mussels actually feed by filtering plankton. They also require no additional supplemental food so they actually improve surrounding water quality. Mussels also respond well to high-density farming and very rarely require antibiotics.
Unfortunately, sardines have suffered greatly from overfishing. In fact, it’s illegal to commercial fish for sardines in the west coast. However, a few companies have done it right and created sustainable, well-managed fisheries with negligible by-catch and habitat damage.
Trout is one of the most affordable fish. It also packs a lot of punch in terms of healthy fats. Its nutritional pay off also comes with very few contaminants because North American trout farmers use land based tanks and “raceways.” This causes fewer of the environmental concerns that farmed salmon has been famous for.
Atlantic Mackerel is a rich tasting, delicious fish. Mackerel has all your protein, B vitamins and cancer fighting vitamin D. Atlantic Mackerel is a smaller species of mackerel therefore, it has a lot less mercury than its cousin. The wild Atlantic fishery in North America is a well managed. The industry practices sustainable harvesting measures that allow the fish to remain abundant. Look for ready-to-go BPA free packages of smoked fillets. Add them to any meal for a flavorful nutritious punch.
Do your research! Know where your fish comes from and the industry practices. You need to avoid fish that has been pre-processed, battered or breaded. Processed fish rarely lists its source and isn’t legally required to do so. Therefore, making it unregulated.
Here is some fish that you should NEVER eat.
- Farmed Tilapia
- Atlantic Salmon
- Chilean Sea Bass
- King Mackerel
- Imported King Crab
- Atlantic Bluefin Tuna
- Orange Roughy
- Imported Catfish
- Farmed Shrimp
(n.d.) Retrieved from http://www.fao.org/docrep/008/y6634e/y6634e04.htm
Why Don’t We Eat Our Own Fish? (n.d.).