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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