tuna, salmon or mahi mahi: which fish should you be eating now?

Posted on June 21st, 2011

This is a quick post, just to alert you to a resource for buying fish because I think many of us feel in the dark as to which are best to buy and why.

Picture 15 via pinterest.com

The Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) have developed the first online sustainability guide for seafood consumers in Australia. It was developed in response to growing public concern about overfishing and its impact on our oceans and their wildlife, and is designed to help you make informed seafood choices and play a part in swelling the tide for sustainable seafood in Australia.

The guide lists fish according to ‘better’ option, ‘think twice’, or ‘no’- which basically means don’t eat it if you have a conscience.

According to the sustainability guide, some of the well-known ‘better’ options include

  • sardines,
  • whiting, calamari,
  • oysters
  • and mahi mahi.

We should be saying “no” to:

  • tuna,
  • salmon,
  • gemfish
  • and farmed barramundi

Some of the ‘think twice’ fish include prawns(farmed in Australia), dory, and wild barramundi. See the guide for a full list and explanation of all fish, and if you’re interested, I’ve posted before on which tinned tuna to buy.

Here’s some bullet-pointed things to share at the pub tonight:

  • One research team assessing the relative sustainability of the top seafood producing nations ranked Australia 31st out of the 53 nations considered. We still have a long way to go.
  • When you’re shopping for seafood, ask if the fish is a deep sea, slow-growing or long-lived species. Deep sea species are generally slow-growing and long-lived. This makes them particularly vulnerable to fishing pressure, and they take longer to recover from impacts on their populations. Give these species a break.
  • The ‘dolphin friendly’ logos evident on most canned fish, particularly tuna, are not a measure of sustainability. While dolphin friendly seafood is caught in ways that minimise the number of dolphins killed, they may still catch threatened species such as sharks or turtles. The ‘dolphin friendly’ logo also does not give any indication of overfishing. Although some companies try to do the right thing, there is no independent regulation of the use of dolphin friendly labels.

There is a lot of helpful information on the website. You can also buy a guide for $9.95 here. Keep it with you and shop with a clear conscience.

Mark Bittman from the New York Times says he only eats white fillet. He shares some tips on cooking and eating sustainable fish here. I’ve pulled out some top tips for you:

  • cook any white fillet the same way you cook any other white fillet: broiled, sautéed, roasted or poached, and teamed with just about any seasoning you can think of, from the obvious, like tomatoes and capers, to the semiexotic, like sugar and fish sauce.
  • thicker pieces of fish will cook in 15 minutes or less, thinner pieces in under 10.
  • you can tell that any fillet is done when it’s opaque and a thin-bladed knife meets little resistance when you use it to poke the thickest part of the fish.

I know a lot of eco-orientated nutritionists share on this blog…what are your thoughts? Anyone else got fish-buying tips?

 

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  • http://angieathome.blogspot.com/ Angela

    So, why is farmed salmon not sustainable? I ask because I really love to eat salmon, it is so good for us, and it tastes great.

    I know most (if not all) the salmon I buy is farmed in Tasmania. It isn’t fishing the wild stocks, so is it unsustainable because it is harmful to the environment?

    I’d love to know, because I thought I was doing the right thing!

    [Reply]

    Alex Reply:

    It’s unsustainable because of the amount of wild fish they catch and feed to the salmon, which totally mucks up the ecosystem, they produce a large amount of effluent, and it’s kind of gross because of the antibiotics fed to the fish. I am very skeptical that no trace’of antibiotics ends up on the plate and it’s also a concern because wild fish can eat the antibiotics too.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/stories/2009/12/08/2765421.htm

    [Reply]

    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    Alex, thx for that succinct explanation and link! VERY helpful.

    [Reply]

    Lara Reply:

    According to the guide it is OK to eat Australian Salmon (wild). I’ve never seen it though…but perhaps it’s just not labelled as such.

    [Reply]

    Chris Reply:

    That’s because they tastes like shit. They feed off muddy sea beds. Even disguised in a curry they can taste ordinary.

    [Reply]

    Michael Reply:

    Wrong, Aussie salmon don’t feed off muddy bottoms they are a pelagic fish that feed on any number of bait fish, both in open deep waters and off beaches and headlands. They only travel upstream to breed and take refuge in rough weather. when caught if bled properly and looked after can taste great and are one of the best wild caught fish for your health (high in omega 3 and low to no traces of mercury).
    We should be eating more of these species of fish if we want to eat fish 20 years from now.
    Really bugs me when people are so closed minded about this sort if thing.

  • http://happyhealthyhot.com tegan haining

    Aaron and Anthia at Origin of Energy just talked about his last weekend at a workshop…they pretty much don’t eat any fish here in Australia due to the farming issues…the best way to eat fish is to go and catch it yourself! But hey who has the time! These are great tips to help everyone remember fish have feelings too! Ha I sound a bit hippy-ish – but its true!! :)

    [Reply]

    Claire Reply:

    I was at that workshop too and a woman nearby gave me this link for wild salmon (sans antibiotics etc). http://thecanadianway.com.au

    Totally agree – Fish is still important for our diet… but it’s impossible to get the good stuff!

    [Reply]

    Claude Debussy Reply:

    I did a reply for this and it went all the way down the bottom of the page.
    So I’ll try one last time before i give up forever.

    A great man once said- “It’s OK to eat fish, cos they, don’t have any fee-eelings.”
    -Kurt Cobain (1967-1994)

    [Reply]

  • Mia

    I really wish I liked sardines, because they are so good for you – and, as you say, a safer option. But the whole hairy tiny salty fish thing just weirds me out too much. Maybe its an aquired taste.

    [Reply]

    MaryV Reply:

    I am not a fan of sardines either. I try to eat fish like salmon on a regular basis because I need to increase my intake of omega 3.

    [Reply]

    Mel Reply:

    Agree, very much an acquired taste and reminds me of cat food when all mashed up.

    [Reply]

    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    Have you guys tried fresh sardine fillets? Not from a tin? Not hairy at all. Grill them and sprinkle with a bit of chilli, lemon and parsley and have on toast. Quite different to the tinned ones.

    [Reply]

    Johhno Reply:

    Too much discrimination going on here. I like my fish and my women hairy. Ban the brazilian, bring back the 70′s.

    [Reply]

    Sam Reply:

    Grow up Johnno

    [Reply]

    Johhno Reply:

    Eat my shorts.

    Sam Reply:

    Yep, should have known you had the mentality of Bart Simpson!

    [Reply]

    Johhno Reply:

    Thanks for the compliment but I’m more like Homer sweetheart. Mmmmmm, hairy sardines.

    Sam Reply:

    Johhno, you aren’t even funny. You are embarrassing.

    [Reply]

    Johnno Reply:

    Whose trying to be funny? What’s funny is that you never have the courage to post under your own name Sarah. Not very authentic.

    Johnno Reply:

    PS: So cute how you always have to have the last word. Alpha-female to the end. Love it.

    Sam Reply:

    Johnno, you obvioulsy have it in for Sarah. Can tell this from your previous posts. Why don’t you just leave her and her blog alone. Pehaps you should head over to the Zoo blog – more along your blokey mentality level.

    And btw, my name is Samantha Harrington, not Sarah Wilson.

    Johnno Reply:

    Will you be on the cover page this month Sam? Leopard prints are currently in. I’ll check it out fore sure.

    Sarah Reply:

    Don’t worry Johnno i thought your comment was quite funny! Who says you can’t add humour to a serious discussion?

    [Reply]

    Anna Reply:

    I thought Johnno’s reply very funny indeed. I wish the 70s were back too – would save a lot of money on waxing costs! :)

  • Alex

    Yay I’m so glad they published a guide! It I was buying mussels the other day and the fishmonger was recommending this other customer buy orange roughy – I was pretty unimpressed, you think staff should have this sort of knowledge and there were a million other fillets of fish to choose from.

    [Reply]

  • peckingbird

    Does anybody have any information about trout? It is my favourite fish and we eat it regularly.

    [Reply]

  • Pingback: The Fish We Eat | Felt Like Wool

  • Mia

    Sarah, I think if a past life you were a Viking. Your outdoorsy lifestyle and eating habits (porridge, meat, soups & fish type things) are very similar to how they survived way back when (not all of them were bad!)

    [Reply]

    Sarah Wilson

    Sarah WilsonSarah Wilson Reply:

    And the pelt loin cloth…!

    [Reply]

    Mia Reply:

    Think you’re confusing cultures!

    [Reply]

  • Sam

    My rule is not to eat anything with eyeballs…fish included!

    [Reply]

  • Claire

    I’ve started only buying FISH4EVER – sustainably caught tuna. I’m not sure if it’s my conscious but I swear it tastes better. Even my don’t-care-about-sustainable-anything-boyfriend loves it.

    Yes, it’s not local, yes it’s still in a can but despite cooking at least 85% of all my meals, eating mostly whole foods and grass fed beef, sometimes I just need a can of tuna!

    Check it out
    http://www.fish-4-ever.com/component/option,com_frontpage/Itemid,1/

    [Reply]

  • Paul

    What about Swordfish? I love it but have heard you should only eat it twice a week (and zero if pregnant) given mercury issues.

    Is tuna also a mercury problem?

    Sarah, would be good if you could post a series on fish and how to make better choices (like your excellent cosmetics series). Both canned and fresh (or packeted in the fridge isle). I love fish and would like to know more.

    I found your tinned tuna article from months ago invaluable – changed my choice of tuna. It’s def. worth being informed.

    [Reply]

  • Diane

    Paul, Swordfish is a definite no-no for two reasons. Firstly, it is fished with drifting longlines and secondly, some of the larger, older fish have high mercury levels. I have eliminated swordfish and orange roughy now for a decade as the numbers have not improved. Orange roughy, in particularly, can grow to 150 years old and the average age of the fillet in your fishmonger’s display unit could be 40 years old! Seems selfish to unecessarily take such an old fish when there is so much else to chose from. We are overfishing this species from our seamounts off the continental shelf because the fishing technology is improving and the fishermen can get to places that were previously unreachable. It’s really hard to see this species for sale and not speak up! Also Google ‘tuna and headaches’ and see what is being written about the mercury. connection. To avoid mercury connection, chose young, abundant fish like whiting, calamari, blue grenadier. Oh, and flake is a no-no too…..I could go on….

    [Reply]

    Paul Reply:

    Great, thanks Diane, excellent info. I’m mad for calamari and like whiting too so will stick with them. Eating a 40yr old fish sounds yuk, LOL!

    [Reply]

  • http://northcountrygent.blogspot.com/ Tony

    Here in Canada, David Suzuki is our environmental guru. On his foundations website is listed the top 10 sustainable fish to buy in Canada. Much is similar to Australia but there are some differences, mostly because of location of species. We should remember that what’s sustainable here might not be so on the other side of the globe.

    http://www.davidsuzuki.org/what-you-can-do/eat-for-a-healthy-planet/suzukis-top-10-sustainable-seafood-picks/

    Cheers.

    [Reply]

    Queenie Reply:

    Thankyou thankyou thankyou. I was just this week thinking this. I had bought some salmon from our supermarket ()nearest shopping centre is a country town so not a great deal of choice) and was thinking, this tastes ok but…

    I need some sort of animal protein besides eggs. On offer are:1. beef mince from the farmer literally over the road (Some French boutique breed of cow, limousins??). Beautiful meat but I find it hard to digest beef. Food miles are obviously nil as I can walk there, and I can vouch for the quality of the feed. But I find beef really rich.
    2. Lamb. Not from this area. i love lamb and find it heaps more digestible than beef, but the nearest lamb farmers are in the hunter valley, 200 km away. i know I am probably being neurotic, but i am close to only buying dishwashing gloves from the supermarket. I’m trying really hard because i think it’s really important.
    3. Fish. But WHAT fish. My dad, the ancient ecologist, took one look at our salmon meal and said i’d be more sustainable and healthier eating a Macdonalds burger. Oh damn it. Tinned tuna is not good. Whiting IS good? Excellent!!

    This is so hard, but so worth it. I can’t any more eat stuff that is not sustainable. It doesn’t sit right in my stomach. It’s so important. At least if I do it, that’s one less person eating a deep-sea fish that can grow up to breed. Animals need to exist for their own beauty, not just as food sources for us. We got it wrong a while back. If we all need to become vegetarians. I will face that when it happens. But for now, thanks!

    [Reply]

    Erik Reply:

    Hi,

    Your commitment to sustainability is admirable. As a marine science graduate and a proud participant in Australia’s seafood industry, I would like to take this opportunity to put up a few points for you to consider:

    - There has not been one commercial finfish species that has been fished to extinction in Australia… To my knowledge there has not been any in the world.
    > In Australia alone over the last 200 years
    “Since European settlement began, just over 200 years ago, 18 species of mammals and about 100 species of vascular plants have become extinct. Currently about 40 species of mammals and many hundreds of species of plants are threatened with extinction. These figures are the worst in the world” – Australian Bureau of Statistics. Most comments on this site demonise the Australian Seafood Industry – If you can eat meat with a clear conscience, despite the damage that farming has/is still doing to terrestrial hanitats, then don’t eat anything!

    - Australia is recognised internationally for having world leading fisheries management.

    - Yes Orange Roughy was overfished off the South-East coast of Australia in the 70′s/80′s. Through good fisheries management and fishing rights (Quotas), Stocks have recovered. There is a tiny area off St.Helens in Tasmania where commercial harvest of Orange Roughy is allowed (This species lives in deep waters all along the southern coast of Australia – by only allowing commercial harvest in one small area the stock can be managed).

    At the end of the day, organisations such as Greenpeace and MCS are businesses. They have large numbers of staff to pay and so they need to keep themselves in the spotlight to attract donations. Don’t take everything they say as gospel. If you are that concerned about sustainability, look up AUSTRALIAN scientific commentary and research on the issue. Most of the green NGO’s like to use overseas stats on overfishing to demonise the Australian fishing industry.

    There is still room for improvement in some of our fisheries, but we are managing this and heading in the right direction. Over 70% of seafood consumed in Australia is imported – much of it from poorly managed/unsustainable fisheries.

    Support Australian fishers! Fishing is their livelihood – they don’t want to destroy their future….

    [Reply]

  • Paula

    Can you aussies get tinned salmon? Imported from the U.S.?

    As far as I know, there are pacific and atlantic salmon varieties (atlantic is a no-no by the way!) and pacific wild salmon can really only be found in the U.S. (maybe Japan too). Fresh, wild-caught Alaskan or Pac NW is the way to go. I imagine y’all could get it frozen, but it’s probably really expensive. The canned pink salmon though is inexpensive, clean & safe, sustainable, and delicious! Salmon patties anyone?

    Really and truly though, STAY AWAY from farmed salmon – it’s no bueno.

    [Reply]

  • Kristina

    What am I going to do about sushi – I love the salmon and tuna sushi

    [Reply]

    Kitsa Reply:

    I was also at the Origin of Energy talk and can confirm from a nutritionist friend who recently researched this area that all salmon available in Sydney is farmed in fact most fish is farmed only a few varieties are wild. The only place to buy wild atlantic salmon in Sydney is from http://www.thecanadianway.com.au

    I work in nutrition with children on the autism spectrum and fish is discouraged because of the high levels of mercury contained especially in tuna, swordfish, shark etc all the larger varieties. Preferable to eat white fish that are small in the fish food chain. We also avoid tinned fish because of of aluminium toxicity and sushi as well because of the high levels of parasites contained.

    [Reply]

  • Elana

    Hi Sarah,

    This is related, but much more personal. I have killed a fish, and although it made me a little sad, I felt ok about it and I ate it. But I’ve never killed anything bigger than that, and I eat cows, sheep and kangaroos! I recently saw this pretty amazing and confronting film called ‘Murder Mouth’ in which the young woman, Maddie, who has been raised on Greek lamb souvlaki etc all her life, for the first time kills what she eats.

    I don’t know that I could kill a lamb. It has made me think seriously about what I am eating and really connected the animal with the food, changing my decision making process. A truly fascinating topic that affects us all, but we are so removed from.

    Elana

    [Reply]

    Elana Reply:

    Also, the facebook for the film is /lifedeathanddinner.

    [Reply]

  • http://www.MumsNotHavingChemo.com Laura

    Great blog Sarah! I didn’t realise deep sea fish were so vulnerable to overfishing.

    ‘Seafood fraud’ was also something I didn’t know about – until I read this report:

    http://na.oceana.org/en/news-media/publications/reports/bait-and-switch-how-seafood-fraud-hurts-our-oceans-our-wallets-and-our-health

    It mentions that about 50% of the time, the fish on your plate is not the species that was listed on the menu – crazy!

    [Reply]

  • http://www.google.com/ Torn

    If information were scceor, this would be a goooooal!

    [Reply]

  • Claude Debussy

    “These are great tips to help everyone remember fish have feelings too! Ha I sound a bit hippy-ish – but its true!!”

    A great man once said “It’s ok to eat fish, cos they, don’t have any feelings”
    It was Kurt Cobain.

    [Reply]

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