Save Nemo! : Seafood Watch Guides

”]one of my favorite tools

The other day I was at one of those warehouse superstores with my sister-in-law. I was in need of industrial sized items. After avoiding all the gallon jugs of mayonnaise, mustard, and everything else that is not necessary in my life right now, I found myself standing in the middle of the frozen food aisle contemplating what I could get from that section and what delicious-ness I can create at home with industrial sized stuff. And I realized my body was in dire need of some fish.

I love my neighborhood. I have a western supermarket, Korean supermarket, Chinese supermarket, and organic supermarket by me. There are two butchers with great cuts of meat and access to various cured things. The only thing missing is a good fishmonger. If anyone has a suggestion for a fishmonger in Queens near Woodside, I will gladly take it. So, until then…I was in search of frozen fish. Most of the fishes in these wholesale stores, and most fishes that are frozen in general (but just because I type it does not mean all fish are…check the labels…I am not the all knowing fish dude), are cut and flash frozen on the boat, which means fresh and delicious flavors stay in tact. Problem is, I wasn’t sure which one to buy.

Ever since I was little and trying to start an environmental club in my living room with my dad and mom ( and yes…it was just my dad and mom, no one else), I always knew the importance of the three “R”s (reduce, re-use, and recycle). But it always stopped there. Much more recently, the last three years, I’ve been more conscious of my purchases and what I cook. I buy organic meats and vegetables when I can, I prioritize seasonal fruits and vegetables, and you will most likely see me post foods that are in season. My meats, if the option is there with my butchers and supermarkets, are free range, grass fed animals. But fish always was hard to figure out.

”]victim of bycatchI read somewhere a couple of years ago that as long as it is wild, then it is good. I then later learned that wild is only good with some fish, sometimes you have to get farmed. I was lost and confused, so I ignored it. I know…bad Oregonian (went to school there). But I started to figure and learn about my fish. Like, did you know that 25% of fishing is bycatch? That means that for every three fish, shrimp, crab, whatever that is caught in an unsustainable way, one is just thrown away (sometimes even more…google image search it.  It’s sad). And this isn’t thrown away to let live and be merry, but this is thrown away like dead and to sink. This is including fish, squid, shellfish…all things that can be consumed but isn’t because the fishermen can’t sell it or don’t have the permit for it. Not to mention the dolphins, sea turtles, sharks, and seals that get caught up in the nets and lines. This, on top of overfishing means a whole lot of sea life dying and disappearing for our over consumption and wasteful practices. All of this is hard and confusing and it just adds to the “what should or shouldn’t I buy” and “where should I buy it from” and so on when you stand in front of the fish counter.

But lo and behold, my brother came to save the day again. His friend is this great underwater photographer

seafood watch app for iPhone

seafood watch app for iPhone

and conservationist. He was the one that introduced my brother to one of the most important tools any seafood lover should have with them. It was the “Seafood Watch” card. This is an amazing tool. It breaks down for you the types of seafood to avoid, buy sparingly, or consume all you want. It also breaks the fish down into regions. So you can learn that while Cod can be good from the Pacific, the Atlantic is not where you should get it from. It’s easy to read and portable so you can carry it around when you go shopping or to a restaurant. Monterey Bay updates it twice a year, January and June, so now is the best time to get one or five. I have a couple of copies floating around my place: one next to my cookbooks, one in my wallet, and one on my iPhone.  It’s great.

Now, unfortunately I didn’t get into this need of making sure I had fifty million copies until recently so my last trip to this warehouse store was sans cheat sheet. I lucked out and remembered a few fish that where in the “Best Choice” category so I knew the Cod from Alaska was good and sustainable so I got that. But, I knew if I had downloaded the application earlier on my iPhone, I could have gotten the halibut from the Pacific and told the woman to avoid the Atlantic flounder. But next time I am ready to be the “Seafood Defender” at the warehouse store, dodging all the hungry little kids running towards various food sample carts and informing Soccer Moms of conscious, sea saving choices.  So please, the next time you are deciding on seafood, consult the card.


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