While we were in Costa Rica last week, we were gluttons for fresh fish. We ate loads of red snapper and mahi-mahi—grilled, sauteed and even “raw” in ceviche. It seemed like the right thing to do—eating local, and all—but the news this week says otherwise.
Worldwide fish consumption reached record levels last year, according to a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report, State of the World's Fisheries and Aquaculture, released yesterday. The average person now eats nearly 37 pounds of fish per year, most of them farmed. "Fish is a good-quality and high-protein food and the sector contributes in an important way to world food security," said senior FAO fisheries expert Richard Grainger, one of the report's editors. "That there has been no improvement in the status of stocks is a matter of great concern. The percentage of overexploitation needs to go down, although at least we seem to be reaching a plateau."
In Costa Rica, at least, we were able to buy our fresh-caught fish from local vendors. In the United States, we’re not so lucky. And as my craving for this healthy form of protein followed me home, I also noted with interest an Alternet article this week titled “4 Surprising Places You Should Never Buy Seafood From.” According to the author, Casson Trenor, Americans spent more than $75 billion on seafood in 2009. “When we spend our dollars at seafood merchants that are pursuing business models which take environmental issues into account, we offer these purveyors financial incentive to continue along this path,” he writes. “On the other hand, if we buy pirate-caught Chilean sea bass from a seafood merchant that has no compunction about selling it, we reward this type of nefarious behavior and communicate to the marketplace at large that we, the consumers, don't particularly care about the ramifications of our seafood choices.”
Trenor offered the following list of four seafood retailers “that have adopted particularly reprehensible practices in their quest for fish-driven profit.”
1. Costco: The largest retail-sector purchaser of seafood in North America recently removed a number of key unsustainable species from its shelves, but the company refuses to elaborate on its policy or adopt any strict scientific benchmarks in its sourcing practices.
2. Legal Seafood: The New England seafood market and restaurant chain recently announced that it will host a $115-a-plate dinner designed specifically to serve "blacklisted" fish -- that is, seafood items that are commonly considered to be unsustainable.
3. Nobu: The Nobu sushi chain, with 24 locations, sells a tremendous amount of endangered bluefin tuna.
4. H.E.B.: The Texas and northern Mexico grocery chain comes in dead last in every seafood scorecard Greenpeace USA has ever released.
Delicious...but dangerously over-consumed. iStock photo