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Make Sure Your Holiday Seafood Feast is a Sustainable One

Give a gift to the oceans by giving thought to your seafood purchases

Christmas is a week away, so perhaps you’re starting to plan out your special holiday meal.

If seafood is on the menu, may we remind you that there are many tasty options available that will please your dinner guests while also let you feel good as a responsible consumer.

The issue: many species of fish are seriously “overfished,” meaning that they are being caught at a rate faster than they can reproduce – to the point that the species’ continued existence actually may be in peril.  That’s bad. When you hear the term “sustainable seafood,” that is seafood that is being caught in numbers or by methods that will allow for those species to thrive. That’s good.

Other issues of concern: some methods for harvesting seafood cause lasting habitat damage; some methods catch (often fatally) fish, birds, turtles and marine mammals by mistake; and in some countries, regulation of the fishing industry is weak or non-existence.

But, as a consumer, how do you know if you should buy cod or swordfish? Or even more confusingly, are Pacific- and Atlantic-caught halibut both OK? One of the two? Neither? What about Alaskan salmon vs. Atlantic farm-raised?

The answers are easy to find, on your computer before you go to the market and even on your smartphone while you’re standing in line. Seafood Watch is a program created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium that “creates science-based recommendations to help consumers (and businesses) make ocean-friendly seafood choices.”

You can get in on their recommendations in three ways. You can download the Seafood Watch app, go online to www.seafoodwatch.org or pick up a handy pocket guide during your next Maritime Aquarium visit. (The guides are in our Cascade Café and our “Go Fish” exhibit.)

There are guides for five regions of our country, including the Northeast.

On each Seafood Watch guide, you’ll find three lists: Good Choices, Good Alternatives and seafood to Avoid.

Their lists get specific. For instance, trawl-caught cod from Canadian and U.S. Atlantic waters are to be avoided, but hook-and-line cod from Iceland and Norwalk is a good choice. So how do you know what exactly is filleted there in the deli case? Well, your seafood retailers should be able to tell you. And if they can’t, we as consumers should start pressuring them into knowing and then following sustainable seafood guidelines too.

Can you still make a delicious Christmas dinner out of the Good Choices? Absolutely. Your holiday platter could feature Arctic char, haddock, Alaskan salmon, swordfish, clams, stone crab, mussels, oysters and scallops without any guilt on the side. 

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

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