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Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Fishing for Sustainable Seafood

Photo credit: Sustainable Sushi, Tataki Sushi and Sake Bar, San Francisco
In the realm of ethical food choices, eating fish and seafood seems a great alternative to meat. For health and well-being, research on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acids (found naturally in most seafood) adds another reason to run down to your local sushi chef and order something delicious. But from a sustainable standpoint, fish are one of the most complicated and confusing foods, especially when ordering in a restaurant. The conditions for both farm-raised and wild-caught fish vary depending on new regulations, shifts in the species populations, and international treaties about water and fishing rights as well as pollution and environmental restrictions. Before you give up completely, there are a few useful things to know: First, groups like the Blue Ocean Institute and the Monterey Bay Aquarium have been providing a downloadable sustainable seafood guide for a number of years now – conveniently sized to print out and fit into your wallet.  And now, if conditions change too quickly for you to keep printing out new ones, consider the new Fish iPhone application, which allows you to receive updates and info via a text messaging service. Second, there are very few restaurants that claim to be completely sustainable in their seafood offerings – many, of course, are located near ports with vital fishing industries. California boasts two cities, Pacific Grove and San Francisco, that have Sustainable Seafood Resolutions in place (check out the menu at Passion Fish). On the other coast, Boston area chefs have worked in alliance with the New England Aquarium to push for greater sustainable seafood use, hosting events like dinner series to highlight sustainable offerings in the area. And New Orleans, where restaurants have made a better recovery than the city as a whole, boasts excellent sustainable offerings throughout the city, which have helped bring some much-needed economic revitalization to the area. The South Plaquemines United Fishery and the White Boot Brigade have a comprehensive guide to maintaining longstanding industries for fish, oysters, and crustaceans while protecting the environment and maintaining local cultural traditions that have made New Orleans a culinary gem. And back on the west coast, chef Kristofer Lofgren aims for the almost-impossible sustainable sushi at Bamboo Sushi. And if you’re not up to traveling this week, consider Sustainable Sushi, Casson Trenor’s book and website that provide updated fishing information, news, scientific studies, restaurant reviews, and pretty much an "everything you always wanted to know about sushi" approach to the issue.

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