Catch of the Day: Food News from Around the Web

fish taco plate

We’ve been trolling around for news and netted some doozies. From fish oil, to updated Seafood Watch recommendations, here’s a sampler platter of recent food news morsels.

Restaurant Greenwashers: We are watching you

Developed by intrepid journalist Charles Clover, who brought us the film End of the Line, Fish to Fork is a spanking new online rating system and interactive website that rates restaurants according to their seafood sourcing policies.

You may be surprised by what you find. There’s a lot of assuming going on out there and I’m guilty, too. Just because your favorite tower of gastronomy serves artisan meats and organic produce from local farms doesn’t mean you can assume their seafood sourcing policies are anything to brag about. And yes, it’s pretty disturbing that there is a restaurant named Bluefin on the list. It reminds me of the subdivisions all over California named after the orchards that once stood in their places.

You can send in information about any restaurant you frequent as well, making Fish to Fork a growing and valuable resource.

Fish Oil Is a Fishy Business

As part of your resolution to eat more sustainably, you’ve downloaded those little seafood wallet cards and now you carry them around and refer to them religiously at the fish counter and in restaurants. Good for you!

You may also have stopped eating certain types of fish due to overfishing concerns and begun taking fish oil pills instead. Whoa there, Nellie! Do you know where that fish oil comes from? There’s no wallet card for that, now is there?

Recently, Time Magazine reported on a little known fish called menhaden that is being overfished for the burgeoning fish oil supplement market. Fish oil contains omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for the heart, brain, joints, and other important body parts.

Though menhaden is a tiny fish, it is nonetheless important for two reasons: It’s a source of food for larger predators (many of which are already endangered) and it’s a filter feeder. It eats algae and can help prevent dead zones caused by algae blooms. Scientists have been working on algae-based Omega-3 supplements that have the same properties as fish oil. It’s my understanding that they don’t have all the same components. My advice: Eat more sardines.

New Salmon and Shrimp Rankings from Seafood Watch

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program released new wallet cards this month and there are some important changes you should know about.

If you’ve diligently given up farmed salmon and shrimp due to environmental concerns, you might be happy to know that a certain type of farmed shrimp and a specific type of farmed salmon have been added to the “Green List.”

Responsible aquaculturists have been working hard to improve their practices and the new rankings are proof. US Farmed freshwater Coho salmon is now produced in closed systems that don’t pollute the environment and producers have gotten the feed ratio down to a point that is acceptable to scientists.

Similarly, U.S. farmed freshwater prawns are raised in small-scale operations inland where they cannot escape or pollute the ocean environment. The prawns consume plants and insects rather than large amounts of fish and the water is recirculated for extra green points.

But you still have to do the hard, dirty work of asking questions. Make sure you ask your server or fishmonger if the salmon or shrimp you’re ordering is US freshwater farmed and make sure the salmon is Coho. If you ask those questions and the answer is no, and then you don’t order it, restaurant and store owners will take notice. Remember your power as a consumer.

Pressing the Flesh

You know that pink stuff called krab that you find in cheap sushi? What about fish sticks? Did you ever wonder what that was? It’s pollock, most likely. And pollock is having the certification equivalent of an existential crisis.

On the one hand, The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has just recertified pollock the pollock fishery as sustainable. On the other hand, the Seafood Watch program has downgraded it from “green” (Best Choice) to “yellow” (Caution). Seafood watch is concerned about bycatch and damage to the ocean floor caused by the fishing methods used.

What should you do? Think about what you’re eating. If you’re going to eat fish, know what it is and appreciate it. Wild foods like fish should not be turned into protein pucks and eaten mindlessly.

Image: SauceSupreme

This is the latest installment in Vanessa Barrington’s weekly column, The Green Plate----, on the environmental, social, and political issues related to what and how we eat.

Vanessa Barrington

Vanessa Barrington is a San Francisco based writer and communications consultant specializing in environmental, social, and political issues in the food system.