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Seafood: The Good and the Bad

Most of us are aware of the chemicals and polutants found in the flesh of many of the sea foods we are offered at the store.  But do you know that there are still many “super green” fish and shellfish that we should and can be eating?

Green

What do I mean by “Super Green”?  First of all a SG food must be healthy, and sustainable.  “Farming” or raising these food sources must also be good for the environment and not add to the problems we already face with depletion of our natural resources.

 

Good Fish and Shellfish and Why

  • Albacore Tuna that is Troll or Pole Caught in the U.S. or British Columbia – This fish is only SG if it is troll or pole caught because these methods catch fish smaller than 20 lbs which have a lower continent of mercury and are caught in the colder waters of the US or British Columbia making them higher in omega 3.  The hard part is how to determine if the fish you are looking at meets those standards.  Read the labels or look for Blue Eco Label of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). 
  • Mussels and Oysters that are farm raised – These shellfish pack a large amount of omega-3s and oysters are high in iron.  But what makes these SG are that they both feed off the natural nutrients and algae in the water, filtering the water, thus improving water quality.  It is more healthy to eat these shellfish cooked as the raw shellfish, especially from warm waters may contain harmful bacteria.
  •  Pink Shrimp ( wild-caught in Oregon) and Spot Prawns (wild-caught in British Columbia) – Again, look for the MSC-certified  Blue Label sticker.  The U.S. has strict regulations about net caught anything.  The reason being is that nets drag the ocean floors and damage the coral ref which are the habitats of most of the oceans fish.  The best source of shrimp would be from Oregon and the Pacific Northwest where the shrimp are caught in traps  Avoid imported shrimp, farmed or wild net caught.
  • Rainbow Trout (Farmed) – I know it is hard to remember that one farmed fish is bad and another good but again, look for the blue label.  Lake trout are available in some parts of the country but they are very high in contaminants.  Almost all trout you’ll find in stores will be rainbow trout which are raised in freshwater ponds and protected from contaminants being fed a fishmeal diet designed to conserve resources.
  • Salmon (wild-caught in Alaska) – Salmon in Alaska are very well managed.  Their numbers are tracked and monitored to keep from over fishing during a particular season.  Also the natural streams the fish spawn in are checked regularly.  These fish are a great source of omega-3s and have very few contaminants.  Avoid at all costs the farm raised salmon because the pens they are raised in are full of parasites that threaten the entire salmon population, wild and raised.
  • Sardines (Pacific – wild caught) – Here is one you might not have thought of.  Sardines have more omega-3s than salmon or tuna and are high in vitamin D.  They reproduce quickly and therefore are sustainable with the new regulations.

 Fish to Avoid

  • Bluefin Tuna – This fish is threatened.  Because it is still prized for culinary uses it still can sell for over $150,000 per fish.  Bluefins are high in mercury and also carry an EDF health alert. (Environmental Defense Fund)
  • Chilean Sea Bass (also marketed as Patagonian Toothfish) –the sea bass has been prized on menus for years.  That is one of the problems.  These fish can live over 50 years but are very slow to reproduce, thus making them easy to over fish.  There is only one well-managed fishery the is MSC-certified.  Look for the blue sticker.
  • Grouper – These are huge, delicious fish that live to be very old.  Because they live so long they are high in mercury and are also on the EDF health advisory list.
  • Monkfish – this is one of my favorite fish.  It used to be cheap and was marketed as imatation crab and lobster because its texture resembles lobster.  Alas, it too became popular and is now over fished.  Monkfish is making a come back because of strict netting regulation, so look for the MSC label.
  • Orange Roughy – Now here is a fish that, like the grouper, is very long lived but reproduces slowly making it vulnerable to over fishing.  The Roughy can live to be over 100 years old, so it has high levels of mercury and is also on the EDF health advisory list
  • Salmon (Farmed) – as I explained before, the farm raised salmon are raised in pens in the ocean and are tightly packed.  These pens are treated with antibiotics and full of salmon threatening parasites.  Farmed raised salmon are on the EDF list also.
These are all fish that are either over fished are high in contaminates or both.  Go to The MSC certified “fish to eat” page to see pictures and updates on the available seafood.