by Tim L. Tetzlaff
Director of Conservation & Communications | Naples Zoo at Caribbean Gardens
Do you find yourself wanting to eat healthier? Fish can be an important part of a balanced diet, but not every fish is a wise choice – either for you or for our water-based planet. But how do you know which ones? And how do you remember when you’re choosing fish for your family at the market or sitting down at your favorite seafood
restaurant? The answer to both questions is now as close as your phone or wallet.
To answer the question about which fish to choose, the experts at Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation do the work for us by continually conducting extensive fishery research and making updated recommendations twice a year based on a host of factors that affect each species.
They also factor in health concerns. Toxins found in trace quantities in small fish can build up in the larger predatory fish that eat them in a process called bioaccumulation. When we eat those predatory fish, we can be ingesting the pesticides, mercury, and dioxins from the untold numbers of fish consumed by a larger fish over its lifetime. They note these species with higher levels so you can keep them away from your dinner plate or reduce consumption to safer levels
– an especially important issue for pregnant women and growing children.
Of course, none of this would be terribly useful if it was left in jargon-infested articles published in scientific journals. That’s where the Monterey Bay Aquarium excels
by making all of their research easy to understand through their Seafood WatchSM program. Just like a traffic light, their rating is a simple, color-coded system of green, yellow, and red. The best ocean-friendly and healthy seafood choices are in a green “Best Choices” column while on the other end heavily overfished and unhealthy options are noted in a red “Avoid” column.
As for how to remember, this information is available through regularly updated convenient wallet cards. Locally, you can pick these up at no charge courtesy of the Naples Zoo Conservation Fund at Naples Zoo.
As a Conservation Outreach Partner in the program, Naples Zoo supplies these cards free of charge to visitors in the Zoo and the gift shop. Admission is not required to get your card.
The Zoo also encourages the latest innovation to the Seafood WatchSM program whereby you can simply download the free Seafood WatchSM app for your smart
phone in iPhone or Android format. This saves paper resources and continuously provides you the most updated information so there’s no need to keep on changing out your paper card every six months. You can even check out your favorite sushi.
Why Our Seafood Selections Matter
Life beneath the oceans’ waves can be out of sight and out of mind, but these fish are the planet’s last wildlife being hunted on a large scale. Even with advanced catching techniques, the global catch went flat about 15 years ago showing there’s a limit to the oceans’ abundance. The best research shows 85 percent of the world’s fisheries are already at capacity or in decline.
The good news is that demand on land can drive what gets caught under the sea. Our choices to purchase sustainably caught and raised fish can help shape what’s offered from grocery store coolers to the finest seafood restaurants. Some quickly reproducing fish can recover relatively quickly – and we’re already witnessing the benefits of careful management for some species.
Of course, for many people this is not just about healthy dining and being able to have a delicious seafood platter. It’s livelihood and lives. For example, tens of thousands of people lost their jobs following the devastating collapse from overfished cod stocks off the coast of North America. And globally, more than a billion people depend on the ocean for part of their needed food intake including precious protein needed for young minds.
To better understand, visit www.napleszoo.org/video/seafood-watch. html on the Naples Zoo website to watch a very helpful short video as well as discover other conservation actions you can take for a more beautiful world. By simply making a different dining selection for one seafood choice over another, we can be healthier, improve our food supply, assist fishermen, and help our coastal economy. So pick up your card at the Zoo or download the app right now. It’s a legacy we can leave our children that starts with healthy meals at dinnertime and invests in healthy oceans for a lifetime.