Dear BA Foodist,
With the buzz surrounding sustainable seafood, why do so many restaurants still serve endangered fish, and what can I do about it?
Max Fort, Springfield, Massachusetts
Recently I handed my neighborhood sushi chef the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch sushi guide (download it at montereybayaquarium.org), then asked him to serve me only from the "Best Choices" column. No hamachi (a.k.a. yellowtail), bigeye and yellowfin tuna, octopus, red snapper, and freshwater eel. Wild Alaskan salmon was a Best Choice, but the farmed stuff was off-limits. And what about bluefin tuna, the holy grail of fish aficionados? Let's just say it's like eating a panda bear. So what did I have? I ordered a few farmed oysters to start, wild salmon roe, arctic char, giant clam, and tuna-domestic albacore, listed as a Best Choice. The chef was pretty frustrated at this point. Long story short, many consumers and chefs are confused about what fish to eat. I follow a few rules: Even though farmed fish is the future, I avoid all farm-raised salmon and imported farm-raised fish and shellfish, owing to reports of increased levels of toxic chemicals. (However, domestic farm-raised barramundi, arctic char, catfish, striped bass, and rainbow trout are fine.) And I eat sardines and mackerel, since the rule of thumb is that the smaller the fish, the more sustainable. Avoid Chilean sea bass, bluefin tuna, orange roughy, imported sturgeon caviar, and imported shrimp whenever possible. Just because it's on the menu at a famous chef's restaurant does not mean it's okay to eat.
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