I love sushi. I don't think I could go without it. I also love the ocean - and sometimes when I eat sushi I can unknowingly make choices that hurt the ocean.
So what should someone like me do?
While there are many great resources out there like Seafood Watch and Sea Legacy. Here are 5 general principles that have really helped me make more responsible decisions when it comes to eating seafood and sushi.
1. Eat fish that’s in season
Did you know that fish are seasonal? When you eat fish that's not in season, you end up eating frozen fish and you create demand for fisheries to overfish particular species. Take salmon for example - salmon, a very common fish in sushi, is in season around May - November. This means they spawn within this period and have the opportunity to repopulate the oceans with their eggs (roe). If you eat salmon out of season, you don't give them an opportunity to reproduce, making them more susceptible to overfishing and eroding the global salmon population.
But what if I want to eat salmon all the time? Then you should be aware that there are consequences. Wholefoods has a great seasonal seafood calendar to help you navigate what's in season and what's not.
2. Eat fish that's local
Where you live should influence what kind of fish you eat.
If you live in California you can easily get California halibut, ling/black cod, and sea bass. If you live in Toronto or Boston, shellfish are plentiful. If you live in Singapore, you have access to local shrimp, crab and all kinds of other tropical fish.
Just ask your local fish market what's local where you live!
3. Eat smaller fish vs. bigger fish
When given the choice of salmon vs. mackerel, always choose the smaller fish.
Why? Because smaller fish are lower on the food chain, they typically need less resources like other fish, plants and micro-organisms to sustain their lives. So fish like sardines, mackerels, and shellfish are more sustainable seafood options than salmon, tuna, and mahi mahi.
4. Know your fishermen
Know the provenance of the fish you eat.
Dare to ask questions about where your fish came from? Who caught it? How was it caught? Seafood transparency has a long way to go. Make a point to shop at fresh local seafood markets and try to get to know your vendors. You deserve to know where the fish you eat come from and the impact you're making with every purchase.
5. Try unpopular, "trash" fish
There are millions of species of fish in the sea. We only eat a select few varieties because they've been commercially branded as the pretty, edible ones. Tuna, salmon, halibut, bass, cod, shrimp, lobster, crab, etc. What about rockfish? Sablefish? Or even Jellyfish? Or the thousands of other fish that are caught and tossed back in the sea because they hold no commercial value.
When you try fish that are unfamiliar to you you are eating with the ecosystem. You give common species a chance to breathe and you create market value for fish that would otherwise be wasted.
You have more power than you think to make a difference with the seafood you choose to eat.