A recent study discovered that several species of sharks classified as endangered or threatened are being used to make shark fin soup served in U.S. restaurants.
Researchers at Stony Brook University's Institute for Ocean Conservation Science DNA tested samples of soup from big cities across America and found eight different species of sharks under environmental protection -- including the Scalloped Hammerhead shark, which is on the endangered species list.
This study was the first ever to DNA test on a large, nation-wide scale. Researchers utilized new technology from Pritzker Laboratory at the Field Museum in Chicago, which modified existing test methods in order to be able to identify samples that had deteriorated during the fin treatment and cooking processes.
“This is further proof that shark fin soup here in the United States -- not just in Asia -- is contributing to the global decline of sharks,”said Liz Karan, who is the manager of global shark conservation at the Pew Environment Group.
Shark fin soup is a Chinese delicacy, prized for its rarity and cost. The dish has long been contested as dangerous to the shark population, and the sale, trade and possession of shark fins has been banned in five U.S. states -- including California and, most recently Illinois in July.
Clams take the number 10 spot on the list of seafood most consumed by Americans, with 0.341 pounds per capita. According to Monterey Bay Aquarium's <a href="http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/seafoodwatch.aspx" target="_hplink">Seafood Watch</a>, most varieties of clams are considered "best choices" in terms of sustainability.
Pangasius, perhaps more commonly known as tra, swai and basa, is consumed at 0.405 pounds per capita, a 14 percent jump from 2009. Pangasius is a flaky, tender white fish that is typically both <a href="http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/SeafoodWatch/web/sfw_search.aspx?s=pangasius" target="_hplink">imported and farmed</a> (see <a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/12/magazine/12catfish-t.html" target="_hplink">this fascinating article</a> from The New York Times). It is also referred to as <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pangasius" target="_hplink">iridescent catfish</a>. <br><br> Seafood Watch score: Good Alternative.
Every year, 0.463 pounds of cod is consumed per capita. Cod is a complicated species; a <a href="http://www.amazon.com/Cod-Biography-Fish-Changed-World/dp/0140275010" target="_hplink">whole book</a> has been dedicated to how the fish changed the world. The many varieties of cod range from "best choice" recommendations (hook-and-line-caught Atlantic cod) to species better to avoid (wild-caught imported Pacific cod).
As participants in crab feasts are well aware, there isn't a lot of meat in an individual crab. Perhaps that's why the shellfish hasn't broken the Top 5, with 0.573 pounds per capita eaten per year. <br><br> Like cod, there are some crabs deemed more sustainable than others. Best to avoid imported King crab, while Dungeness crab seems to be a safer bet.
We eat 0.8 pounds per capita of this bottom-dwelling, bizarre-looking fish. Seafood Watch calls catfish a "best choice." It's also the topic of the TV show "<a href="http://animal.discovery.com/tv/hillbilly-handfishin/" target="_hplink">Hillbilly Handfishin'</a>."
5. Alaska Pollack
The Top 5 seafood all break the one-pound-per-capita consumption mark. Alaska pollack is consumed at a rate of 1.192 pounds per capita. Pollack is widely used in the fast food industry: Think <a href="http://www.treehugger.com/files/2009/02/mcdonalds-seafood.php" target="_hplink">McDonald's Filet-O-Fish</a>. <br><br> Seafood Watch score: Good Alternative.
In recent years, tilapia seems to have become many cooks' go-to white fish, thanks to its relatively cheap price and the ease of farming it. Americans ate a staggering 20 percent more tilapia in 2010 than they did in 2009. <br><br> Seafood Watch score: Farmed tilapia from the U.S. and Latin America tend to be OK, but best to avoid that fish coming from Asia.
Nearly 2 pounds of salmon (1.999 to be exact) are eaten per person per year. That explains why there are so many concerns about overfishing and depletion of stocks. The Monterey Bay Aquarium suggests avoiding farmed salmon.
2. Canned Tuna
Americans eat 2.7 pounds per person per year of canned tuna. Many tuna species are best to avoid, according to Seafood Watch, but albacore canned tuna remains a good alternative.
Bubba in "Forrest Gump" had it right ("shrimp soup, shrimp stew, shrimp salad ..."). There are a lot of ways to eat shrimp. That's why the average American consumes 4 pounds of it every year. Like other diverse seafood species, shrimp can be either a <a href="http://www.montereybayaquarium.org/cr/SeafoodWatch/web/sfw_search.aspx?s=shrimp" target="_hplink">good or bad choice</a> for your dinner table. Safer bets are spot prawns and rock shrimp.