Sustainable seafood

I love fish. One of the things I enjoyed most when I lived in Barcelona was the great seafood everywhere. I always chose the fish dish – whatever it was – whenever I had menu del dia and was never disapointed. It was invariably fresh and tasty. I also learned to love a nice grilled calamari, arroz negre, and other seafood that previously I didn’t really eat. But I confess I don’t usually buy fish to cook at home. Initially, it was mostly because I didn’t have a good source of safe fish. I had heard lots about the alarming levels of toxic chemicals in many fish in the market and until I could figure out which ones were safe, I avoided buying any. The only fish I bought was salmon sold at Cumbrae’s because of the company’s commitment to sustainable, organic products.

While my concern in buying fish was mostly based on fear for its quality, it looks like what should be on our minds really is the quantity of fish available and our consumption of it. After reading this article at Chocolate & Zucchini about what Clotilde, its author, calls the “sustainable food dilemma”, I became more aware of the issue of the depletion of our oceans and rivers. I encourage you to read both the article and the discussion that ensued afterwards. The issue had been on my mind recently after a conversation with an English scholar in Spain who told me how Spanish fishermen are notorious in the fishing business for aggressively overfishing and moving into other countries’ water as they run out of fish in their own waters. Apparently most of the fish I enjoyed so much in Spain come from English waters, which are quickly becoming depleted.

But what can we do? Clotilde advises us to get a pocket seafood guide – I’ve seen those around grocery stores here in Toronto, you can download it here – which tells us which fish are safe both in terms of levels of contaminants and sustainability (which are being overfished, etc). We should also ask questions at our restaurants and fishmongers – something I’m not very good at – and show concern. Perhaps if enough people seem interested in getting only susteinable seafood, the market will change. With that in mind, spreading the word is paramount. You’ll find links to more indepth articles about the issue at the blog I cited above.