Choosing Sutainable Fish

As you consider what delicious piece of fish to buy for tonight’s dinner you probably don’t think that you might be eating an endangered species. Unfortunately many of the fish species still commonly available in supermarkets are seriously threatened.  As you probably don’t want to be eating an endangered animal that evening here are some guidelines to choosing guilt free fish.


This is easiest as labelling is compulsory.  It won’t tell you whether the fish you choose is from a sustainable source or not but some simple guidelines will.  Tuna is one of the most popular and while some kinds of tuna are nearing extinction the species sold in cans usually aren’t.  The key words to look out for are ‘line caught’ or ‘dolphin friendly’.  These mean that the fish were caught in ways that did not put other sea life at risk.  With salmon you should avoid farmed but if you are splashing out on caviar do the opposite and avoid wild.  


Provided you are getting the fish you ask for (this is not always a given, even in supermarkets) you simply need to do some homework beforehand.  Decide what kind of fish you’d like, with a couple of reserve choices, and check to see if they are sustainable.   Credit card sized guides are available that you can print out to see at a glance the sustainability of your choice.  For the States,  click here and for the UK here.  Whatever fish you choose, don’t buy one that is unusually small for the species.  This means it didn’t have a chance to breed and help to replenish stocks.   


The fish to avoid in frozen products is hake in particular.  This is now a very endangered fish and should be avoided altogether.  Cod can be OK, if caught by line methods rather than trawling.  If your frozen fish or fish product is not clearly labelled you might want to email the manufacture asking where they obtain their fish. 

What to do if you see a seriously endangered fish on sale 

Chances are this is not illegal.  However if you see them being openly sold you could contact the supermarket.  They are there to make money and want to keep customers happy.  If enough people complain about endangered animals being sold the chances are the supermarket will stop.  With a large chain this could make a big difference.  You may wish also to consult with local or national conservation groups.  Consumers have power and the future of fish could depend on what we choose for dinner.

1. Sustainable seafood
2. Seafood Watch – Official Site of the Monterey Bay Aquarium's …