Gav Martell: He’s in the Kitchen


Canada's Top 10 Sustainable Seafood

What Does Sustainable Fish and Seafood Mean?

The food industry as a whole loves its buzzwords. Go local! Eat organic! Buy sustainable! That's not to say that these aren't all worthwile or legitimate movements. Taking care of what we put in our bodies, or how we treat the precious natural resources our planet has to offer is no laughing matter. However, at the end of the day, you need to keep in mind that mega-store X or big-brand Y really have one thing in mind: that is, convincing you to spend more of your money on their products. Maximizing the bottom line. Corporate conscionce quickly evaporates when a product isn't moving off of shelves fast enough. Thus making it pretty difficult to navigate the waters of food industry buzzwords and discover what the underlying issues truly are.

Today we are going to talk a bit about sustainable food from oceans, waterways, and fish farms. 

Sustainability at its truest sense strives to ensure that we humans do not exploit either our fished or farmed resources at a rate beyond that which it can maintain. As we've been taught a million times over, our planet is a fragile ecosystem with inter-dependent food chains. If we deplete any resource to dangerously low levels, it can be impossible to revive, and inevitably have wide-ranging negative effects on our planet. Organizations and more recently, the media, have raised the profile of overfishing and environmentally destructive fishing methods to the forefront. Making socially responsible eating a topic du jour—and rightly so!

According to research organizationswe are now fishing the last 10 per cent of all predatory large fish such as sharks, tunas and swordfish. For the average consumer it can be challenging to stay educated on what seafood is or isn't considered sustainable. For example, one may think that farmed fish would equate to an easily replenishable stock. However, the open fish pens tend to damage the ecosystem around them. Whereas closed, land-locked pens do not. A subtle difference that can make shopping for seafood without a guide or internet connection nearly impossible.

In general, staying educated on the topic is a challenge at best. When you also factor in that the person selling you the fish is interested in moving product to make a living, signage can be both misleading and sometimes altogether incorrect. I always take the view that the more I can do to choose sustainable seafood, the better. Even if at times I'm misled or misinformed, it's a step in the right direction. As a whole, we've squandered the ability to feed ourselves without taking some responsibility for the global impact of how we are choosing to nourish ourselves. We certainly owe it to future generations to ensure we are not bringing irreparable damage to our natural resources.

The David Suzuki Foundation has published their version of Canada's Top 10 Sustainable Seafood Picks below. Certainly we can all occasionally take the time to educate ourselves on making wiser dining choices. Our kids will thank us.

Canada's Top 10 Sustainable Seafood Picks

  1. Sablefish
    Ask for: Sablefish from the Canadian Pacific or Alaska that are trap and bottom longline caught.
    Avoid: Trawl caught sablefish, or those caught in California, Oregon or Washington using bottom longline.

  2. Farmed Oysters
    Ask for: Oysters farmed anywhere worldwide in a suspended culture system.
    Avoid: Wild oysters that are caught by scallop dredge or tonging.
  3. Spot Prawns
    Ask for: Prawns caught in the Canadian Pacific by trap.
    Avoid: Spot prawns caught in the U.S. or other species of prawns such as tiger prawns. 
  4. Sardines
    Ask for: Sardines from Canadian and U.S. Pacific that are purse seine caught.
    Avoid: Sardines from Atlantic U.S. caught by mid-water trawl or purse seine 
  5. Albacore Tuna
    Ask for: Albacore tuna caught by troll/pole from Canadian and US Pacific waters.
    Avoid: Albacore tuna caught by pelagic longline.
  6. Closed Containment Farmed Salmon
    Ask for: Farmed salmon raised with closed containment technology.
    Avoid: Farmed salmon raised in open net pens. 
  7. Swordfish — Harpoon
    Ask for: Swordfish from Canada and the U.S. that is harpoon or handline caught.
    Avoid: Swordfish harvested with unsustainable gear types like pelagic longline or harpoon/handline, from the Mediterranean, Indian Ocean, International Atlantic or International Pacific regions.
  8. Farmed Clams
    Ask for: Clams farmed worldwide, or wild soft shell clams from the U.S. that are handraked.
  9. Dungeness Crab
    Ask for: Dungeness crab trap caught in Canada, California, Oregon and Washington.
    Avoid: Dungeness crab trap caught in Alaska or Atlantic Dungeness crab. 
  10. Pacific Cod
    sk for: Cod caught in Alaska by bottom longline, jig or trap.
    Avoid: Cod from Atlantic or Pacific waters, other than Alaska.