5@5 - Selecting sustainable fish for Earth Day
April 19th, 2012
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Seafood lovers are between a rockfish and a hard place: More than 80% of the world’s fisheries are being harvested at capacity or are in decline.

In honor of Earth Day, April 22, what can consumers do to make sure their seafood choices aren’t further depleting the oceans?

Chef Takao Iinuma brings a ray of light to the matter. Iiunuma is the executive chef at Genji Sushi, the purveyors of sushi and Japanese cuisine to Whole Foods Markets.

Selecting Sustainable Fish Options for Earth Month: Takao Iinuma

1. Why is it so important to consume fish sustainably?
"Sushi is a culture, and learning to make sushi the traditional way has been passed down for generations. If we want to be able to continue the tradition of sushi culture for the next generations, we need to work to preserve the diversity of fish available."

2. Which fish are most sustainable?
"It helps to remember these 4 'S' words to figure out if a fish is a good choice: small, shellfish, seasonal and silver.

Small fish are lower on the food chain, so there are usually more of them. They also don’t live as long, so they replenish their own stocks more quickly.

Shellfish, specifically mollusks like oysters and clams, actually filter water and make the environment cleaner, so farming them doesn’t have the environmental issues that many kinds of aquaculture have.

In Japan, we traditionally celebrate seasonality and consume foods when they are at their peak. Not only does food that is in season taste better, but it naturally controls the supply because we are not taking something from the environment at the wrong time. A good way to eat seasonally is to eat locally since what is being caught in your area is what is in season where you live.

Many silver fish are also small, such as sardines and anchovies, so they have two things in their favor. Mackerel (saba), Pacific saury (Sanma), and Spanish mackerel (sawara) are examples of larger silver-skinned fish that are plentiful, healthy and delicious."

3. What should every seafood lover know about responsible consumption?
"The reason we have endangered fish populations is from relying too heavily on certain key fish. If we want to still be able to eat those fish in 50 years, we need to change that. Instead of ordering only salmon or tuna, try something new and local. Look at it as an opportunity to expand your tastes - you will get to enjoy more variety and help the planet at the same time."

4. What are sustainability standards when it comes to fish?
"There are so many factors that the experts consider when they determine the sustainability of a fish - where the fish lives (and the health of that environment), supply of wild stocks, how the fish was caught, etc. - that sometimes it seems like no fish is safe.  There are many fish species that we know very little about, so it is important to be careful and not to assume too much. The best bet is to buy your fish from a responsible source and ask questions. Also, look for a rating from a reputable foundation such as the Marine Stewardship Council or the Blue Ocean Institute."

5. What are your favorite dishes that incorporate sustainable fish?
"Sushi is a great way to enjoy many sustainable fish, especially silver-skinned fish like saba (mackerel), kohada (gizzard shad) and iwashi (sardine). Simple grilled fish is another great way to enjoy almost any fish, and you can easily adapt the menu to enjoy the best seasonal flavor."

Is there someone you'd like to see in the hot seat? Let us know in the comments below and if we agree, we'll do our best to chase 'em down.

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Filed under: 5@5 • Aquaculture • Earth Day • Environment • Events • News • Ocean • Sustainability • Think


soundoff (62 Responses)
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    April 29, 2013 at 11:08 am | Reply
  2. mark

    afuturefarm.com in baldwin wisconsin uses tilipia fish and green leafy vegetables in a closed system. The fish feed on the vegetable roots and the fish waste fertilize the plants. No toxic chemicals used. They sell the fish and vegetables in western wisconsin.

    April 22, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Reply
  3. Jenny

    There is no such thing as sustainable fish consumption. It requires the destruction of aquatic habitats and the killing of many types of animals. We need to stop deluding ourselves with articles like this. If we want to have a real discussion about sustainable eating it would not be realistic without a mention of vegetarianism and also the wastefulness of our society and our addiction to oil and animal agriculture.

    April 22, 2012 at 10:19 am | Reply
    • The_Mick

      You're wrong two ways: 1) What about farm raised fish like Talapia? 2) aquatic habitats can be maintained. In Maryland, in the Chesapeake Bay, we've seen a big rebound in Rockfish (aka Striped Bass) since a multistate-effort to limit harvesting was put in place a couple decades ago and since the killing of sea-grass was greatly reduced and in some areas replaced. In Pennsylvania, there's been a big increase in Shad in the Susquehanna since Maryland went to great lengths to cooperate in preserving the fish in the Chesapeake and providing for it's ability to migrate upstream.

      April 22, 2012 at 11:56 am | Reply
      • Jenny

        1) my understanding is that there are health/nutritional concerns with farm-raised fish 2) there is simply not enough of an available supply of fish from these maintained aquatic habitats you describe to feed the entire population. This is why fish consumption is not sustainable, there are too many people on the planet.

        April 22, 2012 at 12:10 pm | Reply
    • ADiff

      Actually there's no such thing as 'sustainable' anything. It's just a vapid marketing label for the weak minded.

      April 23, 2012 at 3:16 am | Reply
  4. Gideodog

    Advice from a POS that supports eating whales-oh wait, they're doing research: How many asians does it take to wipe out the remaining whales. Should've turned the country into a terrritory.

    April 22, 2012 at 9:46 am | Reply
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    April 22, 2012 at 9:41 am | Reply
  6. Lynn

    I read a few years ago that tilapia is very sustainable because it's fresh water, and easy to grow. I think the article mentioned that if we increased the tilapia hatcheries, we could have a steady supply of fish for all. Is that true? No mention of tilapia in the article, at least that I saw.

    April 21, 2012 at 9:42 pm | Reply
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      The source was a sushi chef, which is why no mention of tilapia. Tilapia's a fine fish, and pretty sustainable, but the way it cuts (raw) doesn't make it very easy to make sushi out of.

      Cooking is a different story.

      April 22, 2012 at 6:25 am | Reply
      • Lynn

        Thanks for clarifying for me, Nate. I don't like fish or sushi, but when I buy some to cook for my husband and daughter, I try to get tilapia. I had no idea it isn't ideal for sushi or that the author was a sushi chef. In my defense, I hadn't had my coffee yet when I read this article. Doh. :)

        April 22, 2012 at 1:00 pm | Reply
  7. Codyam

    Sorry, eating meat and celebrating Earth Day is a terrible joke. If you REALLY care about the environment, go vegan.

    April 20, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Reply
    • Trollocoptor

      Eat the rainforests 8D
      Don't eat methane producing cattle!

      April 21, 2012 at 2:22 am | Reply
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      You shouldn't lump all seafood in with meat, though, unless you're talking about some kind of karma-like ethics.

      Everything is a spectrum. On the scale of sustainability, vegan diets are generally best, but seafood choices like what the article recommends are still better than poultry, which is still better than red meat, from the standpoint of how many resources have to be consumed to produce the food.

      Don't make the perfect the enemy of the good.

      April 22, 2012 at 6:06 am | Reply
  8. dowhatifeellike

    The suggested fish taste like arse. I'd rather have walleye or catfish.

    April 20, 2012 at 7:59 pm | Reply
  9. SomeNameHere

    I love sushi and try to eat younger fish (lower mercury) and fish from sustainable fisheries, which is sometimes hard to determine.

    But, I encourage all people to stop eating Ikura (salmon egg sushi). It's so wasteful. The netters in puget sound for example have nearly wiped out the Ikura producers (Chum Salmon) and most of the carcases are tossed since ripe chum salmon are yucky to eat. So they wiped out huge runs of wild salmon and only use the eggs. Wasteful!

    April 20, 2012 at 3:27 pm | Reply
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  11. shevy

    What a terrible article. Hopefully this guy will teach his fellow Japanese that they can't keep harvesting tuna at the rate they are or they were be nothing left in the next 15 to 20 years . Bluefin stocks are down 90% and a fish recently went on the market for $768,000 in Japan. one fish....that's how rare bluefin are getting .

    Sad.

    April 20, 2012 at 6:56 am | Reply
  12. biggerdawg

    Essentially, we are to eat bait now.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:27 am | Reply
    • CrackerBox

      nailed it

      April 21, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Reply
  13. SixDegrees

    Mentioning "Japan" and "sustainability" in the same article is a joke. Japan has rapaciously hunted several ocean species to the very brink of extinction, despite widespread international pressure and overwhelming evidence of the harm their rabid overfishing causes. They have absolutely no regard whatsoever for ecology, balance or stewardship, and continue to deploy more and more ships in search of fewer and fewer prey. Their culture is horribly and perhaps irretrievably broken when it comes to recognizing that marine resources are finite, and they will not stop their wanton, irresponsible ravaging until they have turned the seas into watery deserts.

    April 20, 2012 at 5:24 am | Reply
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      What country can't you say that about? The US has consumed resources at an incredible clip. England was a huge oil producer until recently. Canada's economy is largely based on selling fossil fuels. China opens new coal plants every time you blink.

      Are we not supposed to have any articles on sustainability, unless the only country mentioned in them is Costa Rica?

      April 22, 2012 at 6:21 am | Reply
  14. attorney

    I think the bearded clam is an excellent choice. It's in season about 3 weeks out of the month. Then it turns into a crab.

    April 20, 2012 at 1:00 am | Reply
    • preston

      I agree that that too is always an excellant choice, but very prone to the perils of the Red Tide.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:14 am | Reply
    • IslandAlpha

      Bearded Clam indeed. And when Tartar Sauce is added, it completes the dish.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:25 am | Reply
      • bill mahr the idiot

        i have heard that tartar sauce is excellent on red snapper

        April 20, 2012 at 3:08 am | Reply
        • skyduck

          During the winter months I feast on the bearded Taco. Very similar to the bearded clam just slightly darker complected.

          April 20, 2012 at 2:39 pm |
        • Nate (Seattle, WA)

          Why is it that conservatives so often (a) act like children, even after becoming adults (chronologically), and (b) can't spell?

          April 22, 2012 at 6:10 am |
        • attorney

          @Nate – If you are not into eating fish it's OK, it's definitely not for everyone. Have you considered trying the pink eel?

          April 23, 2012 at 6:21 pm |
    • CrackerBox

      The red winged snapper is no good for eating

      April 21, 2012 at 5:00 pm | Reply
  15. David H

    Better yet, select sustainable vegetables. Vegetarian / vegan foods require less land, less water, and less energy than any animal foods.

    April 20, 2012 at 12:50 am | Reply
    • preston

      I keep hearing good things about a vegetatarian or vegan diet, but I can't Imagine what one would taste like. They always looked awfully bony.

      April 20, 2012 at 1:11 am | Reply
      • Robert

        Anything is good grilled.

        April 20, 2012 at 7:48 am | Reply
        • dnfromge

          ...and with enough BBQ sauce!

          April 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm |
  16. notsopc

    ...Between a rockfish and a cod plaice?

    April 19, 2012 at 11:17 pm | Reply
    • food mom

      touche'!

      April 20, 2012 at 9:32 am | Reply
  17. Fritz

    I might have this one figured out. I'm building a rainfall recovery system I plan to use for growing fish. I live on a ridgetop 600 feet above the river deep in the remote Ozarks. My system consists of two reservoirs, upper and lower. The upper reservoir will hold about 6 million gallons of water and support a population of white crappies and black bass. The lower holds 2 million gallons and will be for utility use and raising minnows. (irrigating gardens and 40 peach trees to feed the pigs and goats.) The entire system recharges every time it rains. The rain overflow flushes down the hollow and into the river. I won't have to buy fish anymore once my fish are grown. If more people do what I'm doing then there would be plenty of fish for everyone.

    April 19, 2012 at 10:30 pm | Reply
    • Mike

      Ah in Chicago my building can be the upper reservoir my neighbors lower :)

      April 19, 2012 at 10:45 pm | Reply
  18. MikeM

    Whole Foods is awesome for not selling fish that are labeled as "Red" meaning they are not sustainable. The important point here is not o tnot fish, but let certain fish recover while seeking sound alternatives. Blue Ocean Institute is a great source of info (they worked with Whole Foods). So is Monterrey Bay Aquarium. A new one to think about is forage fish.
    http://bit.ly/Jclv6j

    April 19, 2012 at 10:01 pm | Reply
  19. Marc

    The article is poorly written.

    April 19, 2012 at 9:12 pm | Reply
    • APE

      THE GIRLS ROOM SMELLS A LITTLE FISHY

      April 19, 2012 at 9:21 pm | Reply
  20. Theo

    This article is horribly written. The author doesn't even state which fish are endangered, and surely there are more than salmon or tuna. I love Chilean Sea Bass, but I've heard that is endangered now. This article just makes me want to reference Wikipedia to learn more now. Way to drive web traffic and advertising dollars away from your domain, CNN.

    April 19, 2012 at 9:04 pm | Reply
  21. Jupitom

    Anybody see anything wrong with discussing sustainable fish, with a Japanese sushi chef- The Japanese are world reknowned at destroying fisheries by overharvesting. Japanese fleets scour the worlds oceans because they cannot sustain themselves on what is left on the waters off Japan.

    While I don't completely disagree with some of his comments – have you ever tasted Saba or iwashi (and probably kohada also). These are very oily, very strong tasting fish- if they tasted better the Japanese probably would have wiped them out also with their factory ships.

    My final comment is this – don't believe all the hype . the ocean is not as depleted as the press would have you believe. If our government would resposibly manage fisheries by limiting commercial catches more in volume, instead of encouraging bigger and bigger ships taking more and more of the catch, we could reduce unemployment, spur boat building, and waste less fish. Instead they keep pushing the little guys out, knowing full well that the bigger ships require bigger catches to sustain profitability.

    April 19, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Reply
    • montyross

      not only that state gov picks on the sport fisherman and limits his catches full well knowing that sportfishing brings economy billions in sales of equipment, fees etc.....

      April 19, 2012 at 10:35 pm | Reply
      • Jupitom

        sorry Monty you are barking up the wrong tree. I am a professional sport fisherman and while I disagree with many of the state rules (especially in FL), I am disgusted by the amount of waste propagated by "sportfishermen". REASONABLE catch limits on sportfishermen go a long way to helping fisheries and DO NOTHING to hurt the industry. Net time you catch more than you can eat, think about that as you throw another carcass into the fishbox instead of releasing it. How much fish can you eat? Are you complaining that 3 50lb tuna is not enough for you, or 5 Mutton Snapper, or 2 Striped Bass? I eat fish 4 or 5 days a week, yet I manage to throw back more fish than I keep. If we would be reasonable and keep only what we need, we wouldn't have to worry about the state limits.

        April 19, 2012 at 11:13 pm | Reply
      • Nate (Seattle, WA)

        Wow, that's an ignorant comment. Nobody is "picking" on sportfisherman. We simply happen to live in a world where there are lots of people who like to fish, and not an infinite number of fish. Do the math.

        The fish quotas weren't enacted on the basis of spurring the economy. Economic activity isn't the driving force behind every single decision (unless your name is Ayn Rand). They were enacted to maintain fish populations (or limit the depletion of fish populations).

        April 22, 2012 at 6:18 am | Reply
    • Dave

      Just because someone is of Japanese ancestry, they are forbidden to discuss sustainability? So you are saying because this person may be from Japan, he is guilty of overfishing. So everyone from Japan is guilty of overfishing? What point are you fumbling around trying to make? I am American, but I oppose senseless wars. Is the universe now going to implode?

      And on what authority are you trying to propagate the myth that ocean stocks are not in trouble. The scientists that spend their lives studying this disagree.

      April 20, 2012 at 2:51 am | Reply
    • Dave

      Yeah,....build more ships.....that will slow down overfishing. Do you even read the things you write?

      April 20, 2012 at 2:53 am | Reply
  22. Hadenuffyet

    Silver (Asian) Carp....there's millions upon millions infesting our mid-western waterways...heck , they even jump in your boat begging to be taken..you tube it , it would be really funny if they didn't pose such a threat to native species...

    April 19, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Reply
    • Jose

      Uuhhh, I'd like some of that.

      April 19, 2012 at 8:59 pm | Reply
    • Fritz

      Yeah! I saw that! I was blown away! I've had fits trying to get that wiley bass to hit my line and these fish jump right in your boat by the boatload! I've heard folks getting smacked hard in the face by a ten pound carp! How do they taste? I'm not much for regular carp because they taste flat and muddy.. But if these asian carp are edible, then maybe they can be spiced up to taste better? Just a thought.

      April 19, 2012 at 10:44 pm | Reply
      • dowhatifeellike

        I've heard that asian carp taste no better. I remember one of the nature-oriented cable channels showing a local competition where people take their boats on the river and net them out of the air, but I think they just kill them and throw them away.

        April 20, 2012 at 8:01 pm | Reply
  23. Ron

    I work in a seafood butchery and we spoil out very little per week. It often comes to about $500.00 per week. Which, in the big picture of what we are getting, isn't that much. We tend to run out of things more than we spoil things.

    April 19, 2012 at 8:17 pm | Reply
  24. panorain

    Chicken of the Sea. People need to start to learn to pretend that chicken is fish.

    April 19, 2012 at 8:12 pm | Reply
    • db

      Obama just signed the Protect Chicken Act but it was all Bushes fault due to all the Texas Fried Chicken he ate!

      April 19, 2012 at 8:58 pm | Reply
  25. Sarah

    I would be interested in knowing what percent of the fish caught are eventually thrown away because it has spoiled.

    April 19, 2012 at 8:09 pm | Reply
    • jackie

      Inreresting question. I suspect it would be quite a lot, especially in the US where so much food is wasted indiscrimi
      nately.

      April 19, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Reply
      • brillow

        i fish and then i get wasted indiscriminatley.

        April 20, 2012 at 3:27 am | Reply
        • poopier7

          i am asian and i like fish, fish is good

          April 20, 2012 at 9:41 am |
    • Nate (Seattle, WA)

      Not sure about fish, but in the US, we waste about a third of our food by simply letting it expire.

      The 3rd world also wastes about the same amount of its food, but for other reasons (disease, drought damage, etc.).

      April 22, 2012 at 6:14 am | Reply

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