Fish is among the healthiest foods on the planet. It is loaded with important nutrients like vitamin D and protein. Fish is also a great source of omega-3 fatty acids, which aid in lowering blood pressure and cholesterol, fighting depression and anxiety, promoting brain health, improving bone and joint health, and much more.
However, in recent years, a higher demand for fish and seafood have resulted in severely overfished waters. The fishing industry is pushing blue fin tuna, salmon and freshwater eel to the brink of extinction. The bluefin tuna population is down 97 percent from historic levels and will need strict commercial regulations to ensure its survival. Freshwater eel are also essentially gone, and if you opt for salmon, chances are it is either endangered or farm-raised. As a result, companies have developed farming methods to ensure the availability of fish and seafood. Many scientists predict that by 2030, almost two-thirds of the seafood we consume will be exclusively farm-raised.
So, what is the problem with farm-raised fish? Similar to the conditions of cows in overpopulated dairy farms, farm-raised fish live in small, crowded quarters – typically pens or cages submerged in lakes, ponds and other bodies of salt water. These fish are often fed antibiotics and treated with pesticides to fight off diseases and other conditions. Eventually, those same pesticides are released into the ocean, exposing other marine life to their harmful effects. The fish that do survive are served on your plate with a belly full of pesticides and antibiotics, which are then consumed by you. In addition, farm-raised fish tend to contain lower levels of nutrients and lack the good omega-3 fatty acids found in wild caught fish.
Eating wild caught fish help to assure that there are no antibiotics or pesticides in the fish you are eating. Because these fish have the ability to swim freely throughout the ocean, they are also filled with good omega-3 fatty acids. Eating wild caught fish is significantly better for the environment. Concentrated fish in pens, nets or any type of farming method, result in concentrated waste. Fish waste can impact the local environment by polluting the water and smothering plants and animals on the seafloor. In addition to waste, disease and parasites, which are common occurrences in crowded pens, these can spread to wild fish.
Although not all wild caught fish are sustainable options, certain species offer healthier and more ecologically sustainable choices than farm-raised fish. The Monterey Bay Seafood Watch is a great resource for information on sustainable seafood and has great recommendations on which types of fish are best choices and good alternatives. As a consumer, you can search for the most sustainable fish available in your area. Make sure you select, “wild-caught,” as they may still recommend sustainably farmed fish.
In Jackson, we are lucky to have two restaurants who partner with the seafood watch. Rendezvous Bistro and Il Villaggio Osteria no longer serve items from the red “Avoid” list. They also train their staff and help raise awareness about sustainable seafood in our area. If you are looking to dine out, check out these two amazing restaurants that serve environmentally conscious seafood. If you are looking to cook at home, the Jackson Whole Grocer has a great selection of wild caught, sustainable fish. Ask the seafood counter about their sustainable options!