The other day I was shopping and I stopped at the meat counter just to see what looked good. The seafood case was still being set and the meat-cutter came out with a plate of swordfish and she stopped to show it to me. “Doesn’t this look amazing? This is some of the best swordfish I’ve ever seen – look at that color, and the skin!” I smiled because I love to see people who love their jobs and are genuinely happy to be doing them. She asked if I wanted some and I hesitated, searching for the right words. I have one of those faces that shows everything (hence I am a horrible poker play and if we are in a meeting together you can tell when I hate your idea). She grinned and said, “You don’t want to buy it because it’s swordfish, but swordfish today is much more sustainable.”
You know what I loved about this exchange? She understood my concerns, she didn’t push, and she left me with information. I didn’t buy any swordfish that day but that conversation started me researching, and talking.
The last time I had swordfish was probably at a Valentine’s Day dinner in the 80’s. The 1990’s it became overfished….and that was the information that stuck in my head. 20 year old information! Guess what – industry changes. It can change rapidly, or it can take a little time. According to NOAA North Atlantic Swordfish is back at a sustainable level, thanks a to management plan. In fact, North Atlantic Swordfish went from being the pariah of the restaurant world (well, for some people) to being one of the best sustainable choices.
If we all stuck to the information we were first presented with we’d all be eating margarine and drinking Tang and avoiding eggs and coconut oil like they were the plague. Keep reading, keep thinking, keep asking. Things change – make sure your mind is one of them.
There are a number of options to help keep you informed on the fish you buy.
The FishWatch website has consumer information and recipes – it is produced by NOAA and it relates only to fish from U.S federal waters and fisheries.
The Safina Center at Stony Brook University has a list of sustainable wild-caught fish (it does not list any farmed fish) and you can get additional information on fishing methods and conservation news.
My favorite is FishWise because it bases the guidelines not only on sustainability and environmental impact but also on the human rights impact of particular species and their catch/farm methods. It seems the most inclusive – federal and international, wild and farmed. Since I don’t usually plan for fish – if it looks good I’ll buy it – I like having an app I can check in with. The app for recommendations is available for Android and the iPhone. This app is also offered by the Monterey Bay Aquarium and is featured in their conservation work.
A note on the image:
Yes, that’s my fishing gear. So why don’t I just eat what I catch?
- I mostly fly-fish so it’s catch and release only
- The American River is so low right now that even if I could keep what I catch, eeuuww. I don’t want to eat anything coming out of there right now.
- I am a terrible fisherman and pretty much can’t catch anything.