Friday, May 1, 2009

Making Sustainable Seafood Choices

I picked up Bottom Feeder by Taras Grescoe this week. It's a topic dear to my heart and a book I wish I'd written myself. A paragraph from the promo description of the book hits the proverbial nail on the head with the paradox that has become modern sea food production and comsumption:

"Just when opting for omega-3-rich seafood is being recognized as one of the healthiest dietary choices a person can make, the news seems to be full of stories about mercury-laden tuna, shrimp contaminated with antibiotics, and collapsing fish stocks. In a world of endangered cod, pirate-caught Chilean sea bass, and sea-lice-infested salmon, can we really continue to order the catch of the day in good conscience?"

I'm looking forward to reading a Canadian's (Montreal even!) perspective on the state of the world's fish and seafood. The last really good, and accessible, read I saw on this topic was The End of the Line (2006) by Charles Clover, the environment editor at The Daily Telegraph in the UK. In it, he examines fisheries industries worldwide, and how fish get from the ocean to our plates. It was an eye-opener, even for me who has covered scientific sessions on this topic. The book is now also available in french.

During my last trip to the UK in December 2008, I noticed a dramatic change in how fish was sold and marketed, compared to my previous visit only 18 months earlier. Information on sustainable seafood was everywhere: magazines, newspapers, and even featured on food reality shows. The fresh fish at the local supermarket, as well as a lot of the frozen choices, were clearly labelled with where and how the fish was caught. Even the UK Times' annual round-up of the top 10 fish and chip shops included consideration of the establishments' "committment to building a sustainable future for the industry by sourcing their fish from well-managed stocks" when producing their chippie ranking.

It's at time like these I feel that Canada is really quite backwards... or at least severely lagging behind the curve. So far as far as I can tell, President's Choice is the only big Canadian company to get into the sustainable seafood game. They have about half a dozen frozen products certified by the Marine Stewardship Council: tuna loins, black cod, salmon filets, smoked salmon, scallops. The much, much smaller Rainforest Trading also does sustainable canned tuna and salmon. It's also availble at some Loblaws.

To help Canadians make informed seafood choices, Seachoice has created a Canadian Seafood Guide. Monterey Bay Aquarium in the USA also produces information and guides through their Seafood Watch program. There guides are regional and there is one for the northeast USA that is especially pertinent to seafood in our area.


Anonymous said...

Although this isn't local to you, it's the first program of its kind that I've heard of, and so I pass it on as a point of interest: an organization essentially doing a CSA with fish!

Amanda said...

That is so cool!!!