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Go Fish: New Card Sums Up Sustainable Seafood Choices

Environmental organizations band together to help diners make informed decisions about which fish to order.

Owen Dugan
Posted: April 22, 2004

Eating certain fish can be potentially harmful to the environment or to you -- or both. Avoiding them just got easier.

Three watchdog groups that keep track of the health and abundance of marine life -- Blue Ocean Institute, Environmental Defense and Monterey Bay Aquarium -- along with the conservation liaison Seafood Choices Alliance have collaborated for the first time on a new wallet-size card that recommends which fish to enjoy and which to avoid.

Previously, each of these groups produced their own fish recommendation card, but as interest in seafood-related issues grew, they decided that clarity was vital. "We realized that more people want to know what's good for us and what's good for the planet," said Dawn Martin, executive director of SeaWeb, the parent of Seafood Choices Alliance, at a press event on Monday morning. "So we united to help avoid confusion in the public mind."

The new Fish List card also takes advantage of the conservation groups' geographical diversity. In the past, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has tended to emphasize Pacific species, while the Long Island-based Blue Ocean Institute's expertise lay largely in Atlantic fish. The new list of fish to avoid includes both Atlantic cod and Pacific rockfish (aka rock cod), which are severely depleted because of overfishing.

Although the primary purpose of the card is to prevent ecological harm, it also highlights fish that have been found to contain high levels of mercury, PCBs and other chemicals that pose health hazards. As Tim Fitzgerald, research associate at Environmental Defense, pointed out, "There's considerable overlap between fish that are good for you and for the environment." Fully one half of the fish on the "avoid" list also pose a health risk.

As a result of the overlap, in many cases, by taking care of yourself, you're also helping to protect the environment. As Martin said, "Conservation and consumption are now irrevocably linked."

The Fish List is available as a PDF from www.thefishlist.org, or you can request, via e-mail, to have a card sent in the mail. The online version of the list also links to each contributing organization's research on the various fish, to provide a more in-depth understanding of their recommendations.

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Read more on this subject:

  • Oct. 2, 2003
    A Passion for Fish Sparks New Forum on Sustainable Seafood

  • June 19, 2001
    Top Chefs Help Fisheries by Backing Educational Web Site on Seafood

  • Aug. 7, 2000
    Chefs Remove Top Seafood From Menus to Help Fisheries
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