How To Enjoy Fish In A Healthy And Sustainable Way
CHOOSING YOUR FISH – SOME ENVIRONMENTAL FACTORS TO CONSIDER
It has now become common knowledge that we are treating the resources of our oceans in an unsustainable manner. Ever since 1961, we have been utilising fish stocks in a manner that far outstrips replenishment rates. The problem has been getting steadily worse. Consumption has more than doubled. In 1962 the average person was consuming 9.1 kilograms of fish per annum. By 20125 that figure had risen to 20.2 kilograms. Global fish populations have dropped 50% since 1971. This is simply unsustainable. This decline has been caused by a number of practices.
We are overfishing our oceans and seas – we’re taking too much out.
The problem of Bycatch has grown steadily worse. This is when fishing operations target a specific species but end up taking out other species as well. Even if these fish are returned to the water they stand very little chance of survival.
Habitat degradation has seen many habitats become unsuitable for hosting many fish species.
- Global warming – the warming of the oceans is continuing at an alarming rate and fish stocks are suffering.
- Demand – consumers are demanding more and more fish and other ocean species.
- Pollution – we are disposing of more and more non-biodegradable material and chemical pollutants (including cosmetics, medical waste, and cleaning products). These make their way into seas and oceans with catastrophic effects.
ARE SUSTAINABLE FISH AND OCEAN PRODUCTS HEALTHY?
We are faced with choices related to what seafood we consume. However, without knowledge of which seafood is both nutritious and sustainable, consumers risk adding to the problems that are facing our oceans and seas. Fish are a great source of essential omega-3 fatty acids and protein, as well as Vitamin D and B12. However, the source of these wonderful nutrients can be a double-edged sword. Depending on where the seafood is sourced it can be packed with antibiotics and other contaminants. Most recommendations about healthy choices take this into account, but they may miss contaminants like heavy metals (mercury for one), hormones, assorted pollutants, and microplastics – and these can have serious consequences for our health.
Take those microplastics for example. ingesting those can impact our gut biome and cause inflammatory responses. Heavy metals may arguably be even worse. They have been implicated in cancer, brain damage, and reproductive issues. We may not even know we are taking these into our bodies. There does not appear to be an authoritative guide to which species contain the highest concentrations of these contaminants. Some information on mercury levels does exist but the lists are by no means exhaustive.
Many consumers are on the lookout for the ‘Ocean wise labeling on the fish they consume or make an effort to eat only fish that is labeled as sourced from sustainable stocks. However, that is no guarantee that the species is going to provide great health benefits. If you are looking for delicious smoked salmon then see here.
SOME POINTERS TO CHOOSING FISH
The seafood industry is a complex one – and making the right decision when purchasing seafood can be challenging. Here are some considerations.
Wild Caught vs. Farmed
Salmon is a good example of how to choose between these two sources. Wild Salmon is sourced from lakes and streams, as well as oceans. Farmed Salmon are kept in pens. The pen environment is not an ideal one. The fish are kept in close proximity to each other and disease can spread quickly. They are fed on a diet of pellets that provides them with that desirable pink meat and also mimics their natural diet. It has been an article of faith among nutritionists that wild-caught Salmon is the better choice. In most cases this is true, but it is worth noting that there are also significant differences in these two sources when it comes to nutritional value.
Wild Salmon is packed with minerals and has higher ratios of Omega 3 and Omega 6 fatty acids. Farmed Salmon can have higher Omega 3 levels, but it also contains enormous amounts of Omega 6 fatty acids. Excess consumption of these fatty acids can cause inflammation. Farmed Salmon also has lower amounts of DHA than wild-caught.
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