Monday, February 22, 2010

Some Thoughts on Fish

[Jonah ordering fish]

The Monterey Bay Aquarium is giving away a little folding pocket guide titled "Seafood Watch, a West Coast Sustainable Seafood Guide". This is of note because it seems like every other issue of National Geographic or so has an article about the collapse of one oceanic fishery or another. The greatest of all, the one that probably led to the discovery of America by Europeans, the Grand Banks off Newfoundland, has been closed for years. There simply aren't enough fish left. It is the same story in fisheries all over the planet. In the 19th Century we wiped out the bison and the carrier pigeon. Now we're doing it to the world's fish. Here's what to do:

The guide consists of three lists: Best Choices, Good Alternatives, and Avoid.

** The double asterisks indicate "Limit consumption due to mercury or other contaminants". To the environmentalists at the Aquarium what matters is whether you harm the fish or the environment. Whether you suffer mercury-induced nerve damage in the process or are otherwise poisoned is an afterthought. Sigh.

# "Some or all of this fishery is certified as sustainable to the Marine Stewardship Council standard." Which I guess means that the people involved are considered affirmatively not schmucks.

(abundant, well-managed, and caught or farmed in environmentally friendly ways)

Abalone (US farmed)
Arctic Char (farmed)
Barramundi (US farmed)
Catfish (US farmed)
Clams, Mussels, Oysters (farmed)
Cobia (US farmed)
Cod, Pacific (Alaska longlines) #
Crab, Dungeness
Halibut, Pacific #
Lobster, Spiny (US)
Rockfish, Black (California, Oregon) **
Sablefish/Black Cod (Alaska, BC)
Salmon (Alaska, wild) #
Sardines, Pacific (US)
Scallops, Bay (farmed)
Shrimp, Pink (Oregon) #
Striped Bass (farmed or wild**)
Tilapia (US farmed)
Trout, Rainbow (farmed)
Tuna, Albacore (troll/pole, US # or BC)
Tuna, Skipjack (troll/pole)
White Seabass

(are an option but there are concerns with how they're caught or farmed - or with the health of their habitat due to other human perils.)

Caviar, Sturgeon (US farmed)
Clams, Oysters (wild)
Cod, Pacific (US trawled)
Crab, King (US), Snow
Flounders, Sanddabs, Soles (Pacific)
Halibut, California
Lingcod **
Lobster, American/Maine
Mahi Mahi/Dolphinfish (US)
Pollock (Alaska wild) #
Rockfish (Alaska or BC, hook and line)**
Sablefish/Black Cod (California or Washington)
Salmon (Washington wild)**
Scallops, Sea (wild)
Shrimp (US, Canada)
Spotted Prawn (US)
Swai, Basa (farmed)
Swordfish (US) **
Tilapia (Central American farmed)
Tuna: Bigeye, Yellowfin (troll/pole)
Tuna: Canned Skipjack and Albacore **

(for now, as these fish are caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment.)

Caviar, Sturgeon (imported wild) **
Chilean Seabass/Toothfish **
Cod: Atlantic, imported Pacific
Cobia (imported farmed)
Crab, King (imported)
Dogfish (US) **
Grenadier/Pacific Roughy
Lobster, Spiny (Caribbean)
Mahi Mahi/Dolphinfish (imported)
Marlin: Blue **, Striped **
Orange Roughy **
Rockfish (trawled) **
Salmon (farmed, including Atlantic) **
Sharks **
Shrimp (imported)
Swordfish (imported) **
Tilapia (Asia farmed)
Tuna: Albacore, Bigeye, Yellowfin (longline) **
Tuna: Bluefin **, Tongol, Canned (except Albacore and Skipjack)
Yellowtail (imported farmed)

For more information, or to print this list, see and the Marine Stewardship Council at

What the hell is barramundi? Or cobia for that matter?

As a bachelor and eater of sandwiches I am sorry that canned tuna is out, at least albacore. I don't what skipjack is, but the name sounds like a suggestion to me. Fortunately there are still Pacific sardines.

As a Jew I am delighted to see that salmon (read "lox"), at least Alaska wild salmon, is still OK.

As someone who pays in restaurants, I am glad Maine lobster is no better than an alternative. "Yes, honey, the lobster does look good, but it's ecologically dubious. Wouldn't you really rather have the catfish? For the sake of the environment?" A fortiori for caviar.



  1. Anonymous10:04 AM

    Albacore tuna is also under a lot of pressure. I wouldn't eat it.