Sustainable seafood (and RainCoast Trading giveaway!)

How was everyone’s weekend? Did most of you celebrate Christmas? If not, I hope you still had a great weekend. You may have seen on Facebook that I got lots of gifts, like the new Weight Watchers cookbook, my very first stainless steel pan (all of mine are nonstick but I figured I should have at least one), a pasta roller attachment to my Kitchen Aid mixer, a cookbook stand, and lots of other food related things. I just love presents (yes, I pretty much turn into a 5-year old on any holiday with gifts and just want more, more and more, lol). Anyways, most of these gifts will definitely make an appearance on the blog in the near future! What should I stuff my first homemade ravioli with? I already put the WW cookbook to use – more on that tomorrow!

Now onto the seafood post I promised last week. Man, going through all the literature I planned on tackling took forever. I am so passionate about the topic of ethical food and sustainability but putting it all together is serious work… and often I get quite emotional because it’s not really black and white and I am constantly conflicted in my own view on the topic. At the end, I think the ethics of seafood comes down to two areas: environmental issues and concern about animal suffering. For the purpose of this post I’ll cover the former.

Sustainable seafood practices focus on figuring out what fish varieties can be fished/consumed without depleting its stocks or harming the environment. What’s also important is the method with which the fish was caught.

  • If overfished varieties are continued to be consumed, they will become extinct. Yes, it’s that serious!
  • Bycatch is the term describing species that are accidently picked up when fishing. They may include threatened or endangered species such as sea turtles, sharks and seabirds. By the time they are hauled up to the surface, they’re often dead or dying… and then trashed. There are no international laws to reduce bycatch, although specific regions, such as Hawaii, do have strict bycatch laws.
  • Certain fishing methods, such as bottom trawling (where a net is dragged along the bottom of the sea, gathering up everything in its path) and longline fleets are contributing heavily to the long-term decline of some of these (bycatch) species. Bycatch numbers are large – each year about a quarter of all fish taken worldwide is bycatch, that’s billions of living creatures trashed!
  • Hook and line gear has substantially less impact on ocean floor habitats.

Farmed Fish

Fish farming is the latest agricultural revolution and the fastest growing form of food production in the world. In 1970 it contributed to 3% of the world’s seafood, now about 1/3 of the fish and other seafood we eat is farmed; the weight of farmed fish produced exceeds that of the global production of beef. (source)

  • Most farmed fish is intensively stocked; their crowded confinement gives rise to stress, abnormal behavior, sea lice infestations, abrasions, and a high death rate. Farmed fish that escape the cages can infect wild fish.
  • Water around sea cages [of farmed salmon] and the seabed below, are polluted from fish feces and food waste that are discharged (untreated) into the sea. The World Wildlife Fund has calculated that Scottish salmon farms discharge the same amount of waste as 9 million people – almost double the human population of Scotland. (source) Salmon farmed on land in “closed” or “contained” farms is a viable alternative that points the way to a more environmentally-friendly future for salmon farming. (source
  • Farmed fish is confined in sea cages, being fattened on fish meal and oil. Cheap fish is made into pellets and fed to farmed salmon. It generally takes three pounds of wild fish to grow one pound of farmed salmon.
  • The fish-farming expends large quantities of fossil fuel to do jobs that wild fish do for free, like foraging at sea to catch their food. “For every kg of Canadian farmed salmon produced, 2.5-5 liters of diesel fuel or its equivalent is consumed.” (source)
  • There are companies that follow sustainable farming practices. Some wild seafood varieties may be overfished, in which case farmed varieties (if sustainably raised) may be preferred.
  • The Seafood Watch Program is a great guide for sustainable seafood. They even have free pocket guides and iphone app that label fish varieties (based on region and fishing methods) as Best Choice, Good Alternative and Avoid. I always consult it at grocery stores (and restaurants) before making my purchasing decisions!

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RainCoast Trading

• Raincoast Trading supports sustainable fishing practices to ensure healthy fish stocks for future generations.
• Only wild caught seafood is harvested, using modern techniques to catch what the Company intends to use and carefully release non-targeted species (bycatch) back to the ocean unharmed.
• RainCoast Trading Albacore tuna is harvested using a “hook and line” method in which 12 barbless hooks are trolled behind each fishing vessel. This technique replaces dolphin-harming long line and netting practices. It also eliminates marine habitat destruction.
• Raincoast Trading salmon is caught using portable fishing traps so unwanted species are carefully separated and released from the catch.
• Unlike most canned products, no water or oil is adding to the fish during the canning. [Elina: I can attest to that… see! Smile ]

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All right, so enough talk about sustainability, let’s get to the taste! I made a quick tuna salad out of the can above, and it was delicious. The tuna is indeed of very high quality. It wasn’t mushy at all and tasted very fresh. I’m a fan! Open-mouthed smile

Ingredients (inspired by the tuna salad sandwich at Flour Bakery)

  • 1 can tuna
  • 4 large baby carrots
  • 1 medium pear
  • 2T raisins
  • 2T nonfat greek yogurt
  • 1T light mayo

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Chop carrots and pear, mix with the rest of ingredients. Makes 2 servings.

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It was sweet and savory. I know it sounds like an odd combo but if you like all the ingredients on their own, you should really give it a try!

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Would you like to win some free RainCoast Trading seafood? One lucky Healthy and Sane reader will be mailed 2 tuna and 1 salmon can (like the package I received above). Here are the rules; there are 6 ways to enter.

1) Leave a comment on this post – Tell me what you learned about sustainable seafood (from this post or anywhere else).

2+3) Follow me on Twitter (please tell me in the comments what your twitter name is so I can confirm). For an additional entry, you can also tweet about this giveaway (my twitter name must be included to qualify – that’s @elinacooks fyi)

4) Like Healthy and Sane on Facebook.

5) Add Healthy and Sane to your blogroll.

6) Link to this post on your blog, if you have one. If you don’t, let someone else know about this giveaway and tell me so in the comments section after they’ve entered the giveaway.

Please leave a separate comment for each entry. The giveaway is open to US and Canadian residents only (sorry) and will end on January 1 (ick!). I will randomly choose a winner using random.org and announce him/her on the following Monday. Good luck! Open-mouthed smile

Ps – I actually took notes on the subject which amounted to pages so let me know if you want more. Majority of what I left out pertains to CSFs and potential suffering of fish (and other seafood). Please be warned, that info isn’t pretty.

Sources used: Edible Boston magazine (spring 2010) Cape Anne Fresh Catch: The Pescavore’s Dilemma by Roz Cummins,  The Ethics of What We Eat by Peter Singer, Monterey Bay Seafood Watch program, RainCoast Trading, NOAA

Do you eat seafood? Is sustainability important to you? I have to admit that sometimes (only at restaurants) I chose convenience over sustainability. It’s something that may change in the future. We have to pick our battles!

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54 comments to Sustainable seafood (and RainCoast Trading giveaway!)

  • This is a really fantastic post, Elina. Although I do make a concerted effort to purchase sustainable seafood, some of these statistics shocked me. I had no idea that 1/4 of all seafood caught yearly is bycatch! I was also surprised by the amount of wild fish needed to feed farm-raised fish. I am definitely going to consult the Seafood Watch Program website for more information about the best seafood to buy and order.

    On a lighter note, it sounds like you hit the culinary jackpot this Christmas! My favorite type of ravioli is butternut squash, so I’m putting in a vote for that being your first homemade ravioli filling :). Have fun!

  • wow i really had very little knowledge on the subject, and especially had no idea that is what farm fishing means… definitely will make me think twice when i eat fish in the future.

  • follow you on twitter already:-) @lclkeepitsweet

  • I’d never heard of “bycatch” before, but it makes total sense; just because you’re fishing for one species doesn’t mean you won’t accidentally pick up another! So frustrating.

  • Hillary

    This is really great Elina! I admit, I haven’t given this issue much thought, before your post and was was eagerly awaiting it! Thanks for sharing all this knowledge with your readers!!

  • Kathy

    Great post Elina! Here on the cape it’s often a topic of conversations. I liked the different statistics you included. I’m going to have to check out the app!

    Glad you had a nice Christmas!!

  • This was a really great post to read! I had no idea about a LOT of that! I feel like we hear so much about poultry and beef but fish isnt so widely talked about. I had no idea about the vast amoutn of bycatch and also how much waste is produced from farmed salmon!! Tha’t’s insane! I do admit I’ll order for convenience at restaurants too but I dont buy farm raised fish anymore at the store.

  • I am following you on twitter! (sorry I thought I already was!!)

  • last but not least you are already on the blogroll!

    I also got my first All Clad pan this year! Used it last night and LOVE it :)

  • Kelly

    Nice post elina. This is something that I also feel passionately about so i am glad you took the time to research it. I think the other thing that freaks me out about farm raised fish is that I have read that in many cases the fish meal they are being fed are often fish that are bigger than them/higher in the food chain that they would never eat in real life. There is also a very real problem of overcrowding in fish farms and of lice. Yuck. I’ve also read of problems of runoff.

    All of this generally makes me steer clear of farmed fish. I’ve read there are some fish farms that practice cleaner, mire healthy fish farming, but it seems like since fish is barely labeled at the grocery store there is no way to know.

    I’m hoping that since things have gotten better over the years someday fish labeling might be improved. Why not just tell us on the package/sign if something is overfished or came from a more sustainable farm?

    • Elina

      Kelly – Whole Foods has actually added labels to their fish that have the Monterey Bay sustainability score. I hope more grocery stores adopt this although I suspect it will only happen if consumer preferences (and thus grocery store’s purchases) change. No one wants red “Avoid” labels all over their fish counter – that will definitely not be profitable.

  • Great giveaway! I learned they use the hook and line method – you never really hear much about how the fish are actually caught – this is great!

  • You constantly hear about the issues and problems with chicken, beef and pork, but it is rare to read and have extensive coverage on sustainable practices with regards to the fish industry. This is a great post. It makes me want to watch the Cove. I knew that there were severe problems with the overcrowded environment farmed fish are raised with and also the infections fish get and how their scales rub off on each other as a result. It’s really sad and not valued enough as an issue.

    • Elina

      Susan – we actually got the Cove through Netflix weeks ago and still haven’t watched it. It’s such a heavy movie that I need to be in the right mindset to watch it but I know it will make an impact.

  • ooh, i’m going to have to be on the lookout for those monterey scores, would be very helpful in deciding which to buy! bycatch makes me sad…

  • you’re on my blogroll :)

  • elaine

    thanks for holding such a wonderful giveaway! I learned that using barbless hooks is just one way to prevent additional harm to dolphins!

  • Kaitlyn

    I didn’t realize farmed fish was fed and fattened up… yuck.

  • Kaitlyn

    And I follow you on twitter.

  • Kaitlyn

    And I like you on FB!

  • Thanks for the info! My mom and I love seafood, and canned seafoods are so convenient and we always keep them around the kitchen. Definitely going to start paying attention and look out to the sustainable farmed brands now that I’m aware :).

  • also added you to my blogroll!

  • I learned that farm fish are kept in sea cages. Which immediately made me think of some sort of sinister aquarium. Odd…

  • Katie

    Fantastic giveaway and very informative post. “Water around sea cages [of farmed salmon] and the seabed below, are polluted from fish feces and food waste that are discharged (untreated) into the sea.” Ummmm, I thought I knew a lot about farm raised fish, but this was a new one for me. Disgusting!

  • Amy

    wow! interesting post! I had no idea that it took so much wild fish to produce farmed fish-what a waste!

  • Great post Elina!! Very interesting – and it did help to simplify. Sustainability is important to me but I agree that restaurants are the most difficult part of eating sustainable seafood.

  • Awesome post Elina – so interesting, I learned a lot. I wasn’t even award of bycatch before.

    Merry Christmas too :) Can’t wait to see what kind of ravioli you make first!

  • That sweet and savory tuna combo sounds awesome.

    I go back and forth on the issue of eating fish in general. I’ve been pescetarian or vegetarian for the better part of 12 years. Honestly, though, sustainability is an issue I do not devote enough conscious effort to.

  • I’m not eligible, so don’t include me (though I would love the seafood!) but I had to comment and say that I’m utterly intrigued by the idea of putting pear with tuna! Will definitely have to try this out :)

    P.S. In regards to your comment on my blog about hating the cold…. this is my first summer in over two years as I’ve travelled so much that I’ve only had one summer since 2007. So don’t begrudge me too much of the warmth! 😉

  • Great and informative post about sustainable seafood!

  • […] Sustainable seafood (and RainCost Trading giveaway!) […]

  • MB

    Learned about ByCatch–so interesting!

  • MB

    Twitter follower

  • MB

    Tweeted about the giveaway–twitter name marciebeth

  • Carol

    This is such an important topic and one that rarely receives the attention it deserves, so I am really loving this giveaway and this post. I think Raincoast is a great company and their sustainable practices should be commended.

  • I am such a seafood lover, but I rarely think of the sustainability of it. Thanks for bringing the subject to light! I learned that there are companies who have sustainable practices, and that it pays to buy from them!

  • We are huge seafood eaters! Thanks for all the info and the opportunity for a wonderful giveaway.

    Someone recently told me, and I don’t know if this is true, that many varieties of seafood will most certainly be extinct in my own lifetime if consumption practices don’t change. How sad is that?

  • I follow you on twitter.

  • Will

    I learned a quarter of the world’ s seafood is by catch..sustainability needs to play a more prominent role in our consumption of seafood for sure, such a great post!

  • Thank you for educating me! I tend to buy a lot of “wildcaught” fish because it tastes better to me… but I had no idea how bad the farming conditions are.

  • […] Sustainable seafood (and RainCost Trading giveaway!) […]

  • Beth

    I’ve realized that sunstainable farming is imporant and worth the extra money to preserve our environment and fish supply.

  • I think you have to ask when you order seafood at a restaurant. There are some fish you KNOW not to order (Chilean Sea Bass) but it’s easy to just see Atlantic Salmon and think, ‘Hmm, well I live on the Atlantic so it must be okay.’

  • and I already follow you on twitter @TravelEatRepeat

  • Carolyn

    Very interesting article, good to know that companies are being proactive in engaging in sustainable practices.

  • Meg

    I too had never heard of the “by catch.” I always try to eat sustainable seafood! This give away is great!

  • […] almost forgot – the winner of the RainCoast Trading giveaway is #32. Kerstin, congrats, please email me your […]

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