sustainable seafood

by jennifer mccharen
Celebrating holidays in Jacksonville typically means welcoming family and friends from out of town. If they’re coming from inland, they’re probably excited to taste some fresh Floridian seafood.
We have long been told of the many health benefits of eating fish, especially the brain-enhancing power of Omega-3 fatty acids. Unfortunately, many popular species are desperately overfished these days, making seafood one of the least sustainable meat choices around. Sustainable seafood is seafood from either fished or farmed sources that can maintain or increase production in the future without jeopardizing the ecosystems from which it was acquired. Even farm-raised fish are problematic. Poorly managed farms can release toxic amounts of fish waste and feed into surrounding waterways, in addition to antibiotics and live fish that can become invasive. Also, choice farmed fish are fed huge quantities of wild-caught fish, such as anchovies and mackerel. This means, in the words of the Environmental Defense Fund: “Globally, roughly three pounds of wild fish are used to produce each pound of farmed salmon. Typical salmon farming therefore puts pressure on wild fish populations, rather than supplementing them.”
Thankfully the EDF, working with the Monterey Bay Aquarium, publishes a thorough guide to choosing sustainable seafood, and there are plenty of delicious, healthful options available here in town.
At the Publix in Riverside, the global nature of the fish industry was apparent with just a little bit of label searching. In the fresh fish display there were Canadian lobsters, Costa Rican Kingklip, Ecuadorian Tilapia, and shrimp from Thailand. In bags, frozen, were more well-traveled creatures. Swordfish and Basa from Vietnam, and Mahi from Peru.
At the top of the list for environmental kindness (and available fresh at Publix for $3.49/lb), is none other than the lowly catfish. As long as you’re purchasing catfish that is farm-raised in the United States, you can rest assured that you are making a wise choice. Regulations on fish farms in this country are strong, and catfish are vegetarian. The rest of the fish in the “fresh” counter here are not good options. Second-best at Publix are the frozen, bagged, sockeye and coho salmons, wild-caught in the US.
If you don’t have time to do the fish detective work yourself, head to Native Sun natural market (Baymeadows location). As in every element of their business model, Native Sun is extremely conscientious about the seafood they sell. Their staff is well-educated about sustainable fishing practices, and were able to answer all my questions.
Most of their seafood is wild-caught with lines, which minimizes bycatch (i.e. it’s more “dolphin safe”, as well as turtle, seal, and bird-safe). I learned from my conversation with the staff at Native Sun, that, unless you catch it yourself, it doesn’t always make sense to buy local. Native Sun does not typically source their seafood locally due to the prevalent use of chemical preservatives, which are sprinkled on the fish shortly after they are caught. At a store so deeply concerned for the health of their customers, it’s probably best to trust that suspicion.
To learn more about sustainable seafood issues, and to download a chart of best and worst choices to your mobile phone, visit: and click on the link to the “Seafood Selector.” For more detailed information on each species, check out the EDF’s partner in science, at: