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Branzini - The Greenest Fish You've Never Even Heard of

08/01/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

While it's hard to ignore the bad news about fish stocks - U.N. statistics show 75% of wild fish stocks are depleted or exploited - the world's clamoring for protein sources is increasingly loud.

That's why a long-term sustainable fish farming experiment with a fish called Branzini (also known as European sea bass) is so promising.

Aquaculture is one key to supplying people with fish, and nearly half the fish consumed is now farmed rather than caught. But the most successful aquaculture experiments have not been entirely sustainable environmentally. And using smaller fish as the ground-up food for farming larger varieties has been decried as a huge waste.

The Center of Marine Biotechnology at the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute has come up with a green fish, it says.

Well, actually silver-colored and farmed, with a delicate taste, but using much greener aquaculture methods.

UM is raising branzini in 12-foot-in-diameter tanks in 3,200 gallons of water that is constantly filtered and has wastes removed using microbes, with water temperature controlled by computer.

The tanks' artificially created seawater is kept as clean as possible and continually recirculated rather than being released into Baltimore harbor waters to create a closed-loop operation.

Key to the experiment is the group's experimenting with using plants and algae, rather than ground-up fish remains, to feed the branzini.

"I'm not a businessman," project leader Yonathan Zohar told the Baltimore Sun. "What really drives me is ... feeding the world."

Zohar is hoping to get funding to build a warehouse producing 200 tons of branzini a year.

And in the meantime, if you plan on having fish for dinner, don't shop for it at Trader Joe's, which garnered another "F" from Greenpeace for its lack of sustainable seafood at stores.

Instead, if you are standing at the fish counter wondering what's greenest, send a mail message to the Monterey Bay Aquarium FishPhone and you'll see whether your choice raises a red flag or is green for go.