I’m a dietitian and I eat sustainably caught fish. Here’s What that means.
It isn’t difficult to understand why people who are focused on supporting their health include fish in their diet. From the healthy fats it provides to the quality protein it boasts to the slew of micronutrients it contains, it is clear that fish is a nutritional powerhouse.
Yet, while it is easy to know whether we should be eating fish (the answer is “yes”, by the way), choosing sustainably caught fish isn’t as black and white to many people. As a registered dietitian, I try to lean on fish that was caught using sustainable fishing methods and fish that is MSC certified. And after reading this article you will understand exactly why that is.
What Is Sustainable Fishing, And Why Should You Care?
We all know that fish comes from our oceans, rivers, and other bodies of water. While fish have the ability to reproduce and replenish their population, thanks to over-fishing practices, degradation of sea life habitats, and changing climates that cause water temperatures to increase, our fish population is declining due to these sea creatures not being able to make up for these man-made factors. Pollution and introducing dams and river barriers can also negatively impact sea life’s ability to thrive.
Over time, continuing to overfish and not focusing on protecting the sea’s habitats can result in us having a severely depleted fish population.
Leaning on fish that is sustainably sourced means that your food was procured in a way that protects sea life habitats and does not deplete the fish population. Both wild-capture fisheries and aquaculture can adopt sustainable fishing practices.
Specifically, according to US law, seafood must be caught according to fishery management plans that:
- Consider social and economic outcomes for fishing communities.
- Prevent overfishing.
- Rebuild depleted stocks.
- Minimize bycatch and interactions with protected species.
- Identify and conserve essential fish habitat.
Sticking to sustainably sourced fish can help ensure that future generations will have access to the same fish that we get to enjoy and that our health benefits from.
What Does MSC Certified Mean?
You may have noticed a blue fish label on your seafood that indicates that your option is MSC certified. Seeing this label means that your fish comes from a fishery that meets rigorous standards for sustainability.
MSC (short for Marine Stewardship Council) is a non-profit organization that sets standards for sustainable fishing, and helps consumers understand which seafood options are sustainably caught. Once a fishery earns certification through 3rd party auditing, surveillance reports are assessed every year to check on progress and fisheries are re-assessed every five years, pushing fisheries to continually improve
Choosing products with the MSC blue fish label allows for eating seafood that supports well-managed, sustainable fisheries.
How To Choose Fish That Is Sustainably Sourced
To know whether the fish you are wanting to eat is sustainably caught, you don’t need to do a deep dive on the fishing practices that happened before your fillet arrived at the grocery store. MSC does all of the legwork for you, so all you have to do is look for the MSC blue fish label to know your fish choice is a sustainable fish to eat.
If you enjoy eating canned tuna or canned salmon, knowing whether your fish is MSC certified is easy as pie, as the label is easy to spot on the outside of the can. Especially when it comes to tuna, looking for the way the fish was caught can be helpful too. Generally speaking, these terms indicate a more sustainable fishing method that was used, as these techniques tend to have minimal to no bycatch.
- free school
Purse seines that use FADs (Fish Aggregating Devices) or drifting longlines are tools that can affect sea turtles, birds, and other species in a negative way.
Among the many canned seafood and tuna options out there, Safe Catch is one that is MSC certified, indicating that by choosing Safe Catch’s products you are supporting fisheries that practice sustainable fishing. Not only are the fish sustainably caught, but the tuna and salmon undergo strict mercury testing before it is canned. In the case of the tuna, if it doesn’t meet Safe Catch’s mercury limit (which is up to ten times stricter than the FDA mercury action limit depending on the variety of tuna), the company won’t buy it.
The fish is hand packed and slow cooked, allowing for more nutrients to be retained before consumption. And, perhaps most importantly, the Safe Catch options simply taste fantastic. Be on the lookout for the MSC blue eco logo on Safe Catch cans in early 2023.
Eating seafood is always a good idea, and unfortunately, most Americans are missing the mark when it comes to consuming the recommended servings every week. Along with making an effort to eat 2-3 servings of lower mercury seafood every week, ensuring that your selection is sustainably sourced can help the underwater ecosystem thrive and continue to supply us and future generations with the seafood options that we all know and love. Looking for the MSC blue fish label can help identify which options are sustainably sourced, and opting for choices that are mercury tested, like Safe Catch, can help you navigate your health journey while helping keep the sea life population as healthy as possible.