Current headlines tell us that many fisheries are in danger, and certain species of fish and shellfish are being over harvested. And what about farmed fish? Surprisingly some corporations that raise fish in “farms” are using methods that harm the environment and produce unhealthy fish. Yet nutrition experts tell us that eating fish is good for us, especially those rich in Omega-3s. What’s a consumer to do? How do we know which types of fish to buy and which to avoid?
The Virginia Aquarium & Marine Science Center has the answer. In 2008, they created the Sensible Seafood program in partnership with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program to educate consumers about the importance of purchasing sustainable seafood. This program promotes the consumption of native regional seafood species that are both plentiful and harvested using environmentally sound practices.
Here are a few more facts about the Virginia Aquarium’s program including advice on how you can buy sustainable seafood for your family.
• What is Sensible Seafood? Sensible Seafood comes from sustainable sources that do not negatively affect fish populations or ecosystems.
• How can I identify Sensible Seafood? The Aquarium has created a Sensible Seafood Pocket Guide—updated regularly—which rates the most popular seafood choices as green, yellow, or red. GREEN seafood items are considered best choices. They are abundant, well managed, and fished or farmed in environmentally friendly ways. Examples include Alaska wild salmon, farmed rainbow trout, and farmed or wild striped bass. Items on the YELLOW list are good choices when best choices are not available. Examples include blue crab, summer flounder, and mahi mahi. RED-listed seafood species are rated as poor choices and items to avoid. Included on this list are red snapper, bluefin tuna, and farmed salmon.
An advisory team of scientists and experts meets annually to discuss scientific evaluations of fish populations and make recommendations for changes to the pocket guide based on those findings.
• Why is Sensible Seafood important? The way your seafood was fished or farmed can have a significant impact on the marine environment. Some fisheries and farms are managed very well while others sadly are not.
The origin of your seafood is also an important factor to consider. Local seafood is likely to be fresher than seafood shipped from around the globe, and local purchases reduce your carbon footprint. Local purchases also contribute to the local economy.
• Why should I purchase Sensible Seafood? As a consumer, your purchases drive the market. Your Sensible Seafood purchases tell businesses that sustainable seafood is what customers want.
In addition to purchasing Sensible Seafood at retail locations, many local restaurants offer Sensible Seafood choices on their menus. Look for the Sensible Seafood logo at your favorite restaurant. If you don’t see it, tell the manager about the program and suggest that he participate.
• Who are the Sensible Seafood partners? Sensible Seafood partners include retail and wholesale seafood sellers, as well as local restaurants which agree to offer at least some Sensible Seafood selections for savvy consumers. When you visit these businesses or eat at these restaurants, please thank them for supporting this important program. New partners join regularly, so check the website ( www.VirginiaAquarium.com.) for updates.
• What else do I need to know? First, pick up a pocket guide at the Virginia Aquarium or a participating partner location. Next, find out more about the Sensible Seafood program at www.VirginiaAquarium.com. Learn about Sensible Seafood partners, research specific species, and learn new recipes to try at home. Spread the word about the importance of sustainability in our community and encourage your favorite restaurant, fish monger, or market to join the Sensible Seafood program.
With proper management of fisheries and care taken by consumers, the ocean may continue to thrive as an abundant source of food. The future of the ocean depends on the decisions we make now. Purchasing Sensible Seafood contributes to a better future for the marine environment and all who depend on its bounty.
The Pocket Guide is available at the Virginia Aquarium, at participating partner locations, and on the website: www.VirginiaAquarium.com.
For more information or to join the Sensible Seafood program, call 757-385-0262. For sample recipes, visit www.tidewaterwomen.com and search Sensible Seafood.
Save the Date! Virginia Aquarium Sensible Seafood Fest, Thursday, May 24, 2012 from 6-9 p.m. Enjoy a fun and flavorful adults-only feast with friends and foodies at the Virginia Aquarium. Sample foods from Sensible Seafood Partners and learn about regional efforts focused on restoration, sustainability, and environmental stewardship. Buy tickets online at www.VirginiaAquarium.com. or call 757-385-0300 for more information.
April Strickland is on the Sensible Seafood team at the Virginia Aquarium.