One of the most common questions we get at all our Turner’s locations is “Is it OK to eat ________?” (Fill in the blank). Because of the mass amount of misinformation regarding seafood sustainability currently in circulation and the lack of reliability behind many current stock assessment science models, this can be a challenging question to answer. Despite the ambiguity behind this topic, there are certain overarching themes that one can follow in order to make sustainable seafood choices:
- First, it’s important to keep in mind that the United States has some of the most restrictive fisheries management policies in the world. This means that although some domestic fish stocks may not currently be restored to their historic levels, the stocks are carefully managed under strict guidelines. These guidelines, which are implemented with incredibly strict enforcement and oversight, only allow our local fishermen to take limited numbers that have been deemed appropriate for allowing these stocks to continue to rebuild to their historic levels. Although the validity behind the science and methods that dictate this management system have been questioned, there are no such regulations in international waters, where much of our imported seafood is caught. Some imported seafood is perfectly sustainable, but it’s important to do your research and make sure the seafood you buy was harvested in a fishery that is being managed in hopes of balancing the ecosystem and preserving the resource for the future.
- When possible, buy local. Aside from supporting the local economy and the shoreside infrastructure that relies on it, buying local means less fuel and resources went into getting that fish to your plate.
- Join a Community Supported Fishery (CSF) program. As the local food market continues to gain traction, community supported fishery programs are popping up all over the country. These programs, which aim to form collaborative and stabilize fair proces for our local fishermen harvesting sustainable seafood options, can be searched by visiting this website: Local Catch. If you live locally, consider joining Cape Ann Fresh Catch, our local CSF which partners with Turner’s to source it’s seafood.
- Eat fish that looks like fish! Overly processed seafood contains preservatives and is generally not good for the environment or for you! And don’t be afraid of the whole fish. Real a-fish-ianados know that there’s tons of flavor and uses in the lesser known parts of the fish.
- Be weary of broad sweeping recommendations or over-simplified “sustainability” programs. In recent years, several seafood sustainability initiatives have popped up with the goal of making sustainable seafood choices easier on the consumer. While these programs may have the right idea in mind, it’s important for the consumer to understand that fisheries science is a variable, complex, and often imprecise. More importantly, the term “sustainable” is a broad term that means different things to different people and groups. Unfortunately, the term is often hijacked and used in the name of profit. Because of this, the consumer is better off basing their decisions on themes and key points (like buying local) instead of buying a fish because it has been ranked with a “green light.”
- Do your homework on farm-raised food. For a long time, many people swore off “farm-raised” seafood. However, the growing global population has required food producers to seek alternative methods to meet our growing demand for food. In response to this demand, many environmentally sustainable fish-farming initiatives have taken off and been successful. Not all farm raised seafood is bad for the environment. The important things to keep in mind and research are maintaining a balance (not having to feed the farm-raised food more than it produces) and environmental impact (waste, antibiotics, etc.)
Making educated decisions on what types of seafood you purchase takes work, but if you have the right goals in mind- it can be easy. The most important thing is to educate yourself. There is a wealth of information available on seafood sustainability. Dive in and read up! Or, if you live by the coast, ask your local fishermen and seafood processors/ distributors. They are the experts and can give you special insights into the best choices you can make.
We’ll see you at the docks!