Reviews | The plea of a pescatarian for a sustainable consumption of seafood
Does a trout have less soul than a hen? As a pescatarian, I choose not to think about this question.
All debates about the soul of poultry aside, pescetarism is a more sustainable alternative to meat consumption, when done correctly. The two traditional fishing and aquaculture – the breeding of marine species – tend to produce less greenhouse gases as the breeding of land animals. But given the devastating effects of overfishing, the conscientious pescatarian must weigh the costs and benefits of their next platter of fried squid.
Overfishing occurs when fishermen catch numbers of a given species faster than they can reproduce. Techniques such as the use of nets catch fish indiscriminately, killing species that will never reach the market. According to Seafood watch, a Monterey Bay Aquarium program, only 65% ââof fish stocks were at âbiologically sustainable levelsâ in 2017. Overfishing also threatens the ecosystem balance, especially in coral reefs, where fish eat algae which would otherwise kill the coral.
The World Wide Fund for Nature has compiled a listing of the species most affected by overfishing. It’s best to avoid consuming these species when possible, especially when you don’t know where the fish are coming from. Seafood watch said large species such as cod and snapper are among the most susceptible to overfishing, as these species have a longer lifespan and therefore cannot reproduce quickly enough to replace the part of their population lost to the peach.
Aquaculture offers a possible solution to overfishing. Rather than taking fish from its original habitat, farmers can raise fish specifically for human consumption – meeting demand for seafood without threatening wild populations. Look for farmed salmon rather than wild salmon and eat more shellfish – like oysters and mussels – which farmers across the country to augment.
However, not all fish farms use sustainable practices and it is still possible to consume wild fish ethically. Creation of Seafood Watch standards for fisheries and aquaculture, which he uses to assess US fisheries and farms. These standards include ensuring that wild populations are at healthy levels for fishing and limiting the use of chemicals that may impact surrounding waters for aquaculture.
And even if the fish is caught rather than farmed, those who prefer fish to beef still help reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A 2018 to study in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, found that beef production was responsible for more than 20 times more emissions than most forms of capture fisheries and aquaculture.
The production of 40 grams of protein by fishing and aquaculture emits less than a kilogram of carbon dioxide. Beef production, on the other hand, creates almost 10 kilograms of carbon dioxide for the same amount of protein. Catfish is a notable exception to this rule, with catfish production having a carbon intensity similar to that of beef.
Even in the case of other species, the picture is far from clear. Although fish production releases less greenhouse gases than beef production, it is generally no more energy efficient. Fishing boats and aquaculture water circulation systems consume a lot of energy.
The only species of fish that require less energy than beef are mollusks and small pelagic fish – species such as mackerel and sardines.
In fact, when it comes to seafood, a can of anchovies or an oyster on the half-shell seem to be the safest values ââoverall. Shellfish and small pelagic fish also contribute the least to acidification of terrestrial oceans, and farmed shellfish can absorb excess nutrients linked to species destruction.
However, consuming sustainable seafood doesn’t mean you have to limit yourself to sardines – it would make life pretty bleak. The Environmental Defense Fund and Seafood watch have created species guides to help consumers make informed decisions when buying seafood. Both guides list species to enjoy and species to avoid, including whether it is best to buy farmed or fished, local or imported products.
In general, the most sustainable fish are those raised in the United States, such as abalone, char, salmon, and shrimp. Although susceptible to overfishing, albacore tuna caught in the United States is a a safe bet, in particular compared to bluefin tuna and yellowfin tuna caught abroad. And bad news for sushi fans – octopus, eel and captured abroad sea ââurchin are among the least durable species.
As consumers, we can put pressure on the fishing industry, but the responsibility to end overfishing ultimately rests on their shoulders. Fisheries need to change their practices and start putting long-term environmental concerns ahead of short-term profits.
However, consumers still need to be concerned about where their fish is coming from. Although far from a perfect system, aquaculture greatly reduces the impacts of overfishing on aquatic ecosystems. Consumers are sending a clear message when they actively choose on-farm farming over wild capture – farming is sexy, overfishing isn’t.
Charlie Taylor is the biggest fan of aquaculture. Write to him at [emailÂ protected].