In this inspiring Ted Talk, renowned chef Dan Barber poses a question that many ethical chefs face: “how do we keep fish on our menu?”. For many years I was a pescatarian (meaning fish was the only animal based protein I included in my diet besides eggs) but as I became increasingly aware of issues surrounding commercial fishing and it’s affect on ocean ecosystems I struggled with a similar question: how do I keep fish on MY menu?
Though fish is indubitably one of the healthiest sources of protein and minerals, overfishing and environmentally destructive fishing practices are threatening the health of our oceans, and to such an extent that the personal health benefits associated with the consumption of fish are not enough to outweigh the negatives of supporting the seafood industry.
What’s perhaps of even more concern is the fact that fish are exposed to more environmental toxins than any other animal, including humans. Trash, radioactive waste, heavy metals particularly mercury, and pesticides are only a few of the contaminants that fish absorb into their systems through water pollution. When we eat fish we are ingesting these toxins into our bodies and our bloodstreams, which is why pregnant women are cautioned to not consume seafood during pregnancy or even while breastfeeding, That’s how potent and toxic these pollutants are.
So what can we do? The absolute best resource for learning to eat seafood safely and with minimal deleterious affect on ocean ecosystems is the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood watch website. They encourage consumers and businesses to purchase seafood that is fished or farmed in ways that don’t harm the environment. They also offer recommendations as to what fish can be eaten safely in regards to contamination.
As Dan Barber says, “we need a radically new conception of agricultural”, and sustainable fishing practices should be at the forefront of our agenda. Our seafood choices have the power to make this situation worse, or improve it.
Also check out the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s vast collection of sustainable seafood recipes. Not only will you find culinary inspiration here, but you can use this as a framework through which to educate yourself on safe seafood choices.