by Catharine Grant.
There’s no denying that people are becoming more aware of what they eat, how it’s produced and where it comes from. When it comes to terrestrial food, people have access to community supported agriculture operations and farmers markets as well as fair trade, free-range and organic options. When it comes to fair and sustainable seafood, on the other hand, things get a bit more complicated. Here in Atlantic Canada, we’re lucky to have many fresh seafood options but it can be difficult for consumers to decipher the differences between all these options and what they mean in terms of social and environmental responsibility.
The Ecology Action Centre, in partnership with OceanWise and SeaChoice, has released a guide to making smart seafood choices, aimed those who live in the Atlantic provinces. We want to encourage restaurants and consumers to take advantage of the options that are most socially and environmentally sustainable in a way that is accessible to everyone. Chefs, in particular, hold a great deal of power in terms of affecting people’s eating habits and introducing them to new and exciting alternatives, including fresh, fair, local and sustainable options. We’ve highlighted the fisheries that most directly benefit east coast communities and have fewer negative impacts on the health of our ocean.
The guide describes the different gear types used in each fishery and recommends the ones that have the lowest impact on the environment and on other marine species. “Smart Seafood Choices” also highlights some of the commonly eaten seafood types that have experienced dramatic declines in our waters and should only be eaten in moderation or not at all.
There are several seafood options that haven’t caught on among the majority of consumers, yet many of these are exceptionally fresh, come from local fisheries, and have a low impact on the environment. People looking to sample the freshest seafood available should try to the following varieties, remembering that, like terrestrial produce, seafood is also seasonal:
- Squid: caught by artisanal techniques in the summer
- Trap-caught shrimp: low bycatch fishery, winter and spring
- Wild and sustainably farmed mussels: available all year round
- Mackerel and herring: available in the summer and very affordable
- Hand dug clams and dive caught urchins: available in the summer
- Lobster: seasons vary across the Atlantic region
It has become common for chefs and consumers to get to know their farmers. Unfortunately, hardly anyone knows their fishermen. Getting to know the people who catch your fish and finding out what gear they use is an important step in ensuring your food is both socially and environmentally sustainable. To find out more, see Smart Seafood Choices (click here for a PDF version) or contact EAC’s Dave Adler at 902-442-0999.
Catharine Grant is the Marine Policy Coordinator at the Ecology Action Centre.