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1 Fish, 2 Fish: Choose Sustainably with the Blue Ocean Institute

July 27, 2016
How do you know if the fish you buy is sustainable? (Photo Credit: Tim Pearce)

As you learned in our story on chefs, many Clean Plates-approved chefs have found purveyors of sustainable seafood, but what about individuals? How can you ensure the fish you buy or dine on is sustainable and safe? Kate McLaughlin, Seafood Program Director at Blue Ocean Institute, is here to help.

Q: How do you define “ocean-friendly” seafood?
A: Ocean-friendly seafood can be wild-caught or farmed. If wild-caught, it should come from a healthy population and be caught with minimal impact on other populations and the marine habitat. If farmed, it should be raised using methods that cause little damage to the environment and have minimal impact on wild populations. Few of the farmed fish should be able to escape, and they shouldn’t be fed large quantities of wild fish.

Q: What is the biggest misconception about ocean-friendly seafood?
A: The biggest misconception I come across is that only wild or only farmed fish can be ocean-friendly. There’s almost an even split between people who say, “I only eat farmed fish to protect wild populations,” or, “I heard all farmed fish are bad so I only eat wild.” In truth, there are both wild and farmed seafood options that are ocean-friendly. It’s important to learn about the fish in question, where it comes from and how it was caught or farmed.

Q: What steps can readers take to make sustainable choices when dining out?
A: Diners can check our site to learn more about go-to seafood choices. Ask servers about what you’re ordering: What kind of tuna is it? Where is it from? To find new ocean-friendly favorites, check out the green options in this guide.

Q: What about navigating the grocery store or fish market?
A: When cooking seafood at home, you call the shots. Take your favorite seafood dish and swap in a more ocean-friendly choice. Check this list of substitutes from Chef Barton Seaver to get an idea of fish you can use in your recipes.

Q: Is the amount of seafood we’re consuming part of the problem?
A: Most Americans eat less than the USDA-recommended eight ounces of seafood per week. People should eat more seafood and make ocean-friendly choices.

Q: Is there an ocean-unfriendly fish or shellfish we over-consume?
A: Americans eat more shrimp, canned tuna and salmon than anything else. Most shrimp are imported and have serious environmental problems: high bycatch rates, habitat damage for wild-caught and pollution in surrounding areas from farmed shrimp.

Q: Any suggestions for underutilized but ocean-friendly species?
A: Find fish from your neck of the woods. Wherever you are, I recommend checking out farmed mussels—these shellfish are very ocean-friendly.

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