Beware the fish lists and wallet cards dictating which fish should or shouldn’t be purchased or selected from a menu. The lists use a broad brush to paint a species as either good or bad when fish sustainability is actually far more complex than a simple yes or no.
The Cod Example: Many fish, such as cod, haddock, sole, monkfish, scallops, Acadian redfish, hake, spend their entire lives from start to finish on the same fishing grounds. Thus, they are known as “groundfish.” In order to determine the health of these species, one must know the fishing grounds they are coming from rather than addressing the entire species. In the example of Cod, cod might be struggling in the Baltic Sea but be thriving in the Gulf of Maine (currently at the best levels in 30 years) so by giving Atlantic Cod a blanket “red listing” they are ignoring the fact that the New England cod is doing great. Further, by not eating New England cod, one is not helping the Baltic Sea Cod since the two stocks never mix.
- The Authors: The majority of these lists are generated by organizations based in the West Coast (i.e., Monterrey Bay) who have their own agendas and often lack information regarding East Coast species.
- Outdated Info: The health of a fishing stock is a fluid situation and the cards are often based on outdated information.
- Harvest Techniques: Many species get “red” listings because of the method of harvest. These lists favor harvest techniques that are improbable for commercial fishing and not “real world.” Fishing gear modifications made by trawlers and scallopers have been instituted to minimize impact in the ocean as far as environmental impact, bycatch and juvenile catch.
Common Sense: Remember, fishermen are often the product of multiple generations of fishing families. They rely on the health of the oceans for their future and the future of their families.
Our Advice: We urge customers to discuss fishery management measures with their fish mongers to determine if a species is well managed in its own fishing grounds. Lists are an easy fix to a complex issue. We urge you to tear up your lists and start talking to your fishmongers!