Recently, The Daily Meal covered a pertinent topic: What Is “Sustainable” Food and Why — and How — Should You Cook It? In this piece, sustainable farming practices were highlighted and we gave you reasons why seeking sustainably sourced products can have a positive impact on the environment. With so much emphasis on the purity and integrity of seafood in American and world news, we decided it was time to investigate sustainable fishing methods as well.
As the days go by, more and more sustainable fishing companies are being created. Some of these companies are catching the fish themselves, while others are selling fish caught sustainably by others. Fish is the primary source of protein for 20 percent of the world’s population. Out of the entire worldwide population, 120 million people rely on the fishing trade for a portion or all of their income. With so many people reliant on fish for not only income but also nutrition, it’s important to ensure the long-term survival of humans by fishing sustainably. The following companies are doing their best to do just that.
“Alaska has over one million square miles of rich fishing waters — and every mile is a precious resource,” says the Alaska Seafood website’s sustainability page. “Our fishing is anchored in strict conservation practices — so that the delicious Alaska Seafood you enjoy today will be enjoyed for generations to come.
“It’s not just a good idea. In Alaska, it’s written into our state constitution. When Alaska became a state in 1959, we wrote into our constitution that ‘fish…be utilized, developed, and maintained on the sustained yield principle.’” Sustainability is just one of the keys to Alaska’s food security and, further, it’s crucial for our planet’s welfare.
The Alaska Wild Salmon Company’s catchphrase, “Reel Salmon from Real People,” gives great insight into this sustainable fish company’s mission.
Its fresh and smoked salmon and salmon pet treats come from sustainably harvested salmon caught in the waters of the Gulf of Alaska. Here’s what Mark Stopha and Sara Hannan of the Alaska Wild Salmon Company have to say about their sustainable, healthy products:
“Our fish are gently harvested one at a time by hand out on the ocean, where the salmon are in prime condition, full of heart-, prostate-, and breast-healthy omega-3 oil, and at the peak of vigor, taste, and freshness. The fish are then immediately dressed and iced… by hand — a process producing the highest quality salmon in Alaska.”
The various brands operating under Copper River Seafoods provide sustainably produced king, sockeye, and coho salmon, as well as spot shrimp, Pacific cod, king crab, rockfish, scallops, and more.
The brand’s Wildcatch line produces salmon jerkies, sticks, and other fishy treats for pets, allowing you to give your pets a snack that is healthy for them and the planet.
Ecofish offers a wide variety of seafood, including salmon, mahi-mahi, halibut, shrimp, and more. It also sells its own line of fish-based foods called Henry & Lisa’s. Henry & Lisa's products are sourced exclusively from fisheries that Ecofish’s independent Seafood Advisory Board, comprised of some of the world's leading marine conservation scientists, recommends as the most sustainable on earth.
Greensbury Market, an online marketplace, aims to bring fresh, organic, and sustainable meat and seafood from small American organic farms and sustainable fisheries straight to your door. Its finfish options include sustainably raised Atlantic salmon, wild-caught Icelandic cod, boneless, skinless wild Alaskan halibut, and more. The marketplace also sells shellfish, such as wild Key West shrimp and wild Maine lobster tails.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) is an eco-labeling organization designed to ensure that seafood can be traced back to a sustainable fishery. This international non-profit organization was established to address the problem of non-sustainable fishing and to safeguard seafood supplies for the future. Its vision is for the world’s oceans to be teeming with life – today, tomorrow, and for generations to come. A sustainable seafood market is crucial to making this vision a reality, and the MSC’s label and fishery certification program are doing their part to make this happen.
There are standards for testing seafood — including tuna, for mercury — which are set by the FDA in the U.S. and by other regulatory bodies in other countries around world. Mercury in tuna is an issue for consumers because the toxic form of mercury, methylmercury, can be found at higher levels in tuna than other types of seafood.
Mercury in its elemental or inorganic form (Hg) makes its way into our lakes and oceans and reacts to create methylmercury (MeHg or MMHg). This organic mercury compound is most commonly found in marine life, and it binds with plant life. Through bio-magnification, in which small fish eat the methylmercury laden planet life, bigger fish eat the smaller fish and so on, the methylmercury concentrations, on average, are higher the farther up the food chain one goes.
Safe Catch is the first and only canned tuna brand that tests every fish for mercury. Safe Catch’s standard is 0.100 ppm for its Elite (10X lower than the FDA) and 0.300 for its Albacore (3 ½ X lower than FDA). Safe Catch Elite is the only brand to meet Consumer Reports ‘Low Mercury’ criteria and mercury levels of the Environmental Working Group’s ‘Best Choice’ standard.
Sea Pact, an innovative environmental nonprofit, was formed through the alliance of nine seafood distributors dedicated to fostering sustainable fishing and fish farming practices in North America and around the world. Together, we’re making an impact by investing in our fishing communities and sourcing responsibly.
The sustainable fish companies that make up Sea Pact include: Albion Fisheries, AC Coverts, Fortune Fish & Gourmet, Ipswich Shellfish Group, J.J. McDonnell, Santa Monica Seafood, Seacore Seafood, Seattle Fish Co., and Stavis Seafoods.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program helps consumers and businesses choose seafood that's fished or farmed in a way that protects sea life and habitats, now and for future generations. Its recommendations indicate which seafood items are "Best Choices" or "Good Alternatives," and which ones you should "Avoid." Some doctors are avoiding tilapia and other fish, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium has an app that helps you understand safe fish consumption.
Seattle Fish Co., one of the founding members of Sea Pact, has a long-term strategy for sustainability and is committed to encouraging wide-scale change. It understands that the success of its business depends upon a healthy environment and, in addition to its long-standing support of sustainable fishing principles and sustainable seafood, it is continually working to uphold its position as a leader in sustainable business practices.
Vital Choice Wild Seafood and Organics captures the fresh-caught quality of succulent, sustainably harvested Alaskan salmon and Northwest Pacific seafood by cleaning and flash-freezing it within hours of harvest.
“The fisheries that supply much of our seafood are certified sustainable either by MSC (look for their blue logo) or the State of Alaska. The remainder [is] deemed sustainable by the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program.”
Wild Pacific Albacore replied to the question, “How is your albacore different from all the other private labels?” by saying:
“Troll-caught albacore that has been canned in a microcannery will vary from brand to brand because of individual canning techniques and the recipes used. We encourage you to find a troll-caught albacore brand that suits your palate from a company you enjoy doing business with. If you do this you'll be supporting the U.S. fisher families who make up the troll-caught industry and helping to keep our oceans healthy.”
Choosing troll-caught albacore helps keep both oceans and consumers healthy. It’s also more humane for the fish involved. An alternative fishing method, long-lining, can result in fish dying slowly and waiting for hours until being cooked. This method also attracts older, bigger fish that have a lower healthy omega-3 content and are often higher in mercury.