Sustainable Seafood Guide

Seafood can be an integral part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. Many fish are a good source of lean protein, B vitamins, and omega-3 fatty acids (an essential nutrient that helps boost immunity and reduces the risk of heart disease, stroke, cancer and other diseases). Yet, for all the nutritional value of seafood, fishing is having a devastating impact on our ocean ecosystems. Over the past 50 years advances in fishing technology have allowed people to fish farther, deeper and more efficiently than ever before leading to the depletion of as much as 90 percent of the large predatory fish (shark, swordfish, cod, etc.) from the world's oceans.

While overfishing is threatening our food supply and marine economies, oceanic pollution is threatening our health. A lot of seafood is contaminated with metals like mercury, industrial chemicals like PCBs, and pesticides. These toxins usually originate on land and make their way into the smallest plants and animals which then get eaten by bigger species. Contaminants continue to accumulate up the food chain so the largest fish, like swordfish and shark, end up with the greatest concentration of toxins.

By making better informed decisions we can help protect our oceans and our health. The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program researches and evaluates seafood products for sustainability and then develops recommendations to help consumers and businesses make ocean-friendly seafood choices. You can use their online database, print out a pocket guide, or get recommendations on your mobile device.

Seafood identified as "Super Green" is good for human health (i.e., low in environmental contaminants and good sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids) and does not harm the oceans. The current “Super Green” list consists of troll- or pole-caught albacore tuna from the U.S. or British Columbia, freshwater coho salmon farmed in tank systems in the U.S., farmed oysters, wild-caught pacific sardines, farmed rainbow trout, and wild Alaskan salmon. Other good choices include farmed arctic char, farmed barramundi from the U.S., wild-caught dungeness crab from California, Oregon or Washington, wild-caught longfin squid from the U.S. Atlantic, and farmed mussels.

Don't eat seafood, but take a fish oil supplement for the health benefits? Mercury, PCB and dioxin contamination is a risk for you too. Fortunately, the Environmental Defense Fund investigated the purifying process of 75 of the most popular fish oil supplements. Make sure your brand comes from one of the companies purifying their fish oils to meet stringent safety standards.

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