You can play a role in helping save the world's wild fish. Here's how.
It shouldn’t take a PhD to shop for seafood. Here are some simple guidelines to help you make responsible choices at the fish counter or restaurant. In our homage to Michael Pollan’s memorable Food Rules, we advise that you generally try to “Eat wild seafood. Not too much of the big fish. Mostly local.” Look in the back of The Perfect Protein for a complete version of these guidelines, and use it to complement a species-specific guide, such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guide.
Eat Wild & Local
Try to eat wild seafood, not farmed. The big exception to this rule is farmed shellfish, such as oysters and clams. When you can’t find anything on the menu that’s in your detailed seafood guide, as sometimes happens, opt for local fish — there are often great options.
Eat Small Fish
Small fish such as sardines, anchovies and herring are largely free from the toxins that accumulate in larger fish and are generally caught without using destructive bottom trawling methods that can destroy centuries-old seafloor communities.
Be Mindful about Big Fish
Eat big fish rarely and when you do, check with the Seafood Watch guide, or try to stick to the safe bets — like wild salmon. When choosing big fish, opt for the wild and local options if possible. And always avoid certain fish, such as bluefin tuna and Chilean sea bass, which are both in real jeopardy.
Eat a Lot of Shellfish
As filter feeders, these animals, farmed or wild, actually improve water quality and can be beneficial to degraded estuaries and coastal areas. A single oyster is capable of filtering 20 gallons of water a day and can form reefs that protect against storm surges.
But Steer Clear of Shrimp
Shrimp is one of the most — if not the most — damaging fisheries around. Even in the highly regulated United States, 76 percent of the marine life that shrimp trawlers haul up isn’t shrimp at all, but species like sharks, red snapper and almost 9,000 endangered sea turtles each year. If you are determined, you can find cold-water shrimp in the supermarket from the North Atlantic and the Pacific that are fished more sustainably.