How to Find Safe, Sustainable Fish

Week 5 Challenge: Fish

The Issues
I write this post with a heavy heart. I cannot think of fish right now without thinking of the Gulf Coast oil disaster, including what that is doing to aquatic life and the fishing industry. Who knows at this point how wide reaching the repercussions will be. But it’s devastating on just about every level.

Seafood has always been a tough topic for me. The wild versions are woefully contaminated, as our waterways are the runoff basin for all of the environmentally destructive activities we humans do (mercury from power plant emissions, PCBs that were banned so many years ago but still linger, hormone disruptors from the cosmetics we wash down the drain), and the farmed fish are very similar to factory-farmed animals. I would never willingly eat the crap they feed the fish – including hormones, antibiotics and dyes – so I don’t eat the fish that eat it. To top it all off, eating locally – something I try to do a lot of – can be particularly difficult if your local waterways are known to be contaminated, which mine are. Further complicating things, 80 percent of the fish in the US is imported from Central America and Asia, where regulations are iffy. Their wild stuff tends to be fished in ecologically destructive ways, and the farmed stuff usually raised in what are essentially sewage pits. No thank you.

Knowing all this I have always had a hard time telling people who want to eat seafood what they can safely eat. I skirted the topic as much as possible in my first book, The Complete Organic Pregnancy, only talking about contaminants to avoid when pregnant. So I made seafood my own challenge to really tackle for The Conscious Kitchen. By and large I feel I succeeded. It wasn’t easy (ask my editor!), but I’m more comfortable now than I have ever been with the seafood I eat. Overall it’s still fraught, because we’re still polluting and harvesting unsustainably, and we haven’t cracked the code on the right ways to farm fish. If we could all eat the Spanish fish that Dan Barber highlighted in his Ted talk (right), that would be lovely, especially if it were local. But the sad fact remains that if you want to eat seafood consciously, you have some navigating to do. Here’s how to do it.


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