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Have Your Fish and Eat It, too
Sarah Rich, 31 May 06

window2.jpg Eating sustainable food has inconsistent benefits. Being a sustainable chocolate eater, for example, usually means double the pleasure, since most of the fair trade, organic bars have superior flavor. Same goes almost unconditionally for eating organic, local produce and free range eggs. On the other hand, being a sustainable fish eater doesn't necessary hold the same delight, since the best way to eat fish sustainably is to not eat fish. For me, moderating my fish intake is not as challenging as moderating my chocolate intake, but it comes close.

Thankfully, information on which fish can be safely eaten in what amounts (both in terms of the safety for the consumer and the health of the environment) has grown more available recently, and efforts to make fish a cleaner, more sustainable food source are on the rise. The old standby for reliable, up-to-date information on fish comes from the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch. The New York Times Food & Dining section also recently featured a list courtesy of Environmental Defense's Oceans Alive, which has a plentiful array of seafoods that can be eaten once per week or more.

These things do change, so it's important to find a trustworthy resource and check it from time to time. It's also key to be sure the people behind the fish counter can give you a little history on the fish you buy. You should be able to get an answer to which ocean it came from and whether it's wild or farmed. Seafood Watch will send you a wallet-sized card that you can carry around with you in case your local fish seller doesn't have all the answers. The more questions you ask, though, the more answers they'll start making available.

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Actually, from what I've read, being organic doesn't make produce taste any different. Freshness is what makes it taste better, so being local is probably what does it.

If you can cite a reputable study showing that being organic alone changes the taste, though, I'd love to see it.

Posted by: Jeremy Faludi on 1 Jun 06

"the best way to eat fish sustainably is to not eat fish"

has the same ring of

"the best way to live sustainably is to be dead"

so it would be nice if you could provide some backup information on why it is impossible to eat fish without killing the planet.

Posted by: Ben Hunt on 1 Jun 06

Well I certainly don't think the best way to live sustainably is to be dead! I suppose, like anything that is best done in moderation, the obvious extreme of that ideal is complete abstinence. Examples abound, of course: The best way to save energy and use less electricity is to never turn on a light. But that's obviously unrealistic, and unnecessary - we can be conservative without being deprived of our basic needs.

As for fish, there's a pretty in-depth response about a similar question over at Grist, though it is almost 3 years old now. The fundamentals hold true:

And there are many great bits of info at the two sites I mentioned above:
Seafood Watch:
and Oceans Alive:

I'll keep scanning for some other good recommendations (while I look for scientific evidence that organic produce tastes better).

Posted by: Sarah on 1 Jun 06

I've been looking for something that states, in plain English, about how much fish each person in the world can eat per week/month/year.
Knowing if it contains poisons is nice, but knowing if my consumption of it is unsustainable would be better.

However, I consume no fish, so I suppose it doesn't matter to me personally.

Posted by: David Lucas on 1 Jun 06

I am troubled by your concept of sustainability as an ideal.

I always thought that it meant the ability to keep functioning in the same way.

When you were growing up did you go to sustainability church and the pastor told you to turn the lights off when you left a room, or suffer dire consequences?

If so someone should start using a new word.

Posted by: Ben Hunt on 2 Jun 06

Check out Travis Hughey's barrel-ponics (based on aquaponics) design using fish to nourish plants and plants to nourish the fish. Fish reproduce and can either be eaten or sold. Mr. Hughey is preparing to go to Kenya to set up a location that will have an fully operational setup for demonstration purposes.The idea is to bring these substainable technologies to the people that need them most.

Check out his small scale design at:

I have personally met Mr. Hughey, seen photos of his greenhouse size design and am very impressed. I believe that this could really make a difference to many in third world countries where nutrient-rich foods are scarce.

Posted by: Joy Hancock on 2 Jun 06



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