Sustainable seafood: Bon appetit!

sustainability.gifOver the last few years, I’ve been part of a group working to put some scientific numbers on the question; “Why should we care about biodiversity?” and specifically ocean biodiversity.  We all love whales and sea turtles, and the occasional Jacques Cousteau rerun.  But how does ocean life really affect our life?  

Our main report was published in Science in November 2006 and one part of it generated headlines that got a lot of people riled up (see for example, here and here). Perhaps more about that another time.  But, during the course of the study, I spent a fair amount of time talking with people about marine biodiversity and conservation, and the question I always get, understandably, is “What can I do?”

Well, here are a few answers for starters.

Eat right.  Our biggest impacts on the Sea come from our relentless scouring of it for food (climate change may soon eclipse fishing as the main threat, but that’s a story for another day).  Probably the simplest, most concrete thing you can do to help is learn how to choose seafood that is sustainably managed, ensuring that it should still be around when your grandchildren are cooking for you.  Seafood Watch, from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, is a fantastic site, with resources ranging from sustainable seafood cheat sheets small enough to stash in your wallet or purse, to meaty (no pun intended) statistically dense reports on individual fish species for the hard-core (the mahi mahi report alone is 54 pages long!).

Environmental Defense has a wallet card too (which has a cooler logo, IMHO), and  a section on recipes, many of which sound decidedly yummy (for example, how about Tilapia Fillets With Pine Nuts and Garlic With Fried Grits and Sautéed Greens?).

The Natural Resources Defense Council has a sustainable seafood recipe page. I haven’t tried any of these yet but some of them sound fabulous (perhaps Grilled Fresh Sardines with Preserved Lemon Salsa Verde?).

What about aquaculture — isn’t that the answer to saving the oceans?  Not necessarily.  The devil is in the details: Tilapia and catfish – good! Farmed salmon – badSeaweb has a great summary of the benefits, costs, and environmental issues associated with aquaculture.

Be a patriot.  Exercise your right and responsibility as a citizen of a democracy by educating yourself on the issues, and contacting your elected representatives and asking them to support homeland security.  I am talking about security for our homeland in the broadest sense of the natural world that sustains seafood and everything else we depend on.  Information on ocean-related issues that require political action is available from the Ocean Conservancy, the Surfrider Foundation, the Marine Fish Conservation Network, and others.

Bon appetit!

The cool poster above is “Sustainability – it’s in our hands” by Ray Troll and Terry Pyles.

About Emmett Duffy

I am a Natural Patriot and an ecologist with expertise in biodiversity and its importance to human society. My day job is Professor of Marine Science at the College of William and Mary in Virginia.
This entry was posted in Biodiversity, Oceans, Sustainability. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to Sustainable seafood: Bon appetit!

  1. David Hatcher says:

    I’ve enjoyed your blog. I went to a SHC reception last night in BR and thought about my days at the Hill and several great years in your company. Also, when GT reported on this years Manatee trip, I sent him a story recalling of our infamous trip. Are Stripped Bass sustainable? I’m looking forward to the upcoming Keys trip. Do try and make it.
    Sir Hideous!!!

  2. Emmett Duffy says:

    Hey Dave,

    Thanks for the visit and comments. I will indeed be there in the Keys this June, with family in tow. Looking forward to seeing you all — and grilling some (sustainable) mahi mahi!

    Striped bass are one of the success stories of Chesapeake Bay fisheries. They rebounded after a fishing moratorium some years ago, and appear to be doing well.

  3. Martin says:

    Great Post! Just wanted to add that farmed mussels and clams are actually good for the oceans. As filter feeders they clean the water and are a delicious, healthy way to help our oceans!

  4. Danna says:

    Sad to say, a lot of people don’t seem to care that much about the oceans and seas, especially the species thriving in it. I think it’s time that we should go for the farmed seafood.