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From Sea to Spoon

Outside downtown NYC’s Fulton Fish market in 1934. The market has since moved to Hunts Point in the Bronx.

Free range chicken, grass fed beef, organically grown produce are all terms we’re familiar with these days.  Farmers markets have popped up everywhere and CSA’s (community supported agriculture) are becoming more popular.  But we don’t hear too much about CSFs (community supported fisheries) or sustainable fishing.

When talking about destroying the environment, it seems careless to overlook our abuse of the oceans.  In fact, we really don’t even talk about the underwater ecosystem until there’s an oil spill or other disaster.  But today, let’s talk about it.  Factory fishing is destroying the coral, the animals, the vegetation – all forms of life.

When the term ‘sustainable fishing’ is thrown around, we’re really talking about a couple things:

  1. Preserving species – avoid overfishing and allow fish to maintain its population
  2. Preserving species’ food sources and their habitats – which will provide a long term and consistent yield by allowing them to thrive.

It’s also important to also avoid overfishing and polluting.  And that brings me to farmed fish.  Fish farming is somewhat energy intense and believe it or not, pumping fish with antibiotics is an issue!  Other concerns about fish farming include: genetically modified fish, food for fish (particularly for carnivorous fish), fish-waste pollution, spreading disease to wild species and confined living quarters.  Some farmed fish don’t have more than a bathtub sized area of water to live! FYI, the tank is not the size of a bathtub but it’s so jam packed full of fish that they have no space to swim.

So, fish farming is not a great option for environmentally conscious practices.  Your best option for fish is going to be a local fishery (check out your local farmers market) or a knowledgeable vendor who purchases from reputable sources.  When possible, choose fish locally caught and sustainably raised.

The main characteristics that you want to discuss with your local fishmonger are:

  1. How healthy the fish population (aka ‘stock’) is.  Select species that have a large, healthy stock.
  2. The methods used to catch the fish.  Select methods that do not destroy the ocean floor, reefs or other species.

If you live near a coast, try to purchase local fish, when possible.  To get you started, check out this guide for what’s available in the New York City region (and the Northeastern US in general).

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