Fish, baby! Brain food? The experts out there say you have to consume plenty of Omega One. Yet our oceans have become so depleted of wild fish stocks, and so polluted through industrial contaminants, trying to figure out which fish is which can be confusing. “Safe fish” lists also tend to change every year because ocean stocks can rebound from the precipice of doom. There really are, however, some fish which plain old common sense tells you not to eat. Therefore, nothing farmed! Fish which lives in tanks or on farms consumes its own fecal matter. Think about it! And don’t eat it. Recommendations came from the global nonprofit organization Food and Water. They looked at the means of harvesting, toxic contamination levels and how heavily local fishermen relied upon fisheries for their economic survival.
1. Imported Catfish: 90% of the catfish imported to the US and Europe come from Vietnam, the rest from China. They are tasty, cheap and superior to American farmed catfish. The problem is that use of antibiotics that are banned in the U.S. and Europe is widespread. Also, truth-in-advertising-wise, two of the varieties of Vietnamese catfish sold, Swai and Basa, aren’t technically considered catfish – which means they aren’t subject to common inspection. Try Asian Carp instead. It’s got that nice nutty-type taste like Catfish and you’ll be helping keep out a predator that is ruining the Great Lakes ecosystem.
2. Caviar: You’re probably already aware that caviar from beluga and wild-caught sturgeon are overfished. Dam building which is common in this part of the old Soviet Union, pollutes the water in which the sturgeon live. If you like caviar, opt for fish eggs from American Lake Sturgeon or American Hackleback, or Shovelnose Sturgeon caviar from the Mississippi River system.
3. American Eel: Whether it’s American, yellow or silver eel, this favorite sushi-dish fish has been highly contaminated with PCBs and mercury. It doesn’t taste like eel, but Atlantic or Pacific-caught squid are similar in consistence and much healthier.
4. Imported Shrimp: 90% of shrimp sold in the U.S. is imported. Most imported shrimp is farmed and contaminated by antibiotics, chemical cleaners, mouse hair, rat hair, and insect pieces. Imports from Asia own special trading status and are simply not inspected. Buy domestic! Gulf of Mexico and Oregon shrimp are particularly good.
5. Atlantic Flatfish: No Atlantic flounder, sole or halibut! They are heavily contaminated and overfished to the point of being unsustainable. Try Pacific Halibut or Tilapia.
6. Atlantic Salmon: Wild Salmon is illegal to fish anywhere because stocks are so low. Farm salmon are not only polluted by pesticides, they gestate scores of undetectable parasites. Alaskan salmon is still legal, but is also on the cusp of being banned.
7. Imported King Crab: Most of it comes from Russia, where there are zero limits on fish harvesting. Restaurants in Europe and the Americas have cynically labeled it Alaskan King Crab, which it is not. Not in taste, nor in the way it is harvested. Is your grocer or restaurateur reliable?
8. Shark: Extremely high in mercury, they have tasty flesh, but with far fewer sharks around, the cow-nose rays and jellyfish they usually eat have increased in numbers, depleting stocks of scallops and other fish. Try Pacific Halibut or Atlantic mackerel.
9. Atlantic Bluefin Tuna: Research by The New York Times shows Atlantic blue-fin tuna has the highest levels of mercury of any type of tuna and are over harvested to the point of mass extinction. Use plain old canned or packaged North America albacore tuna, which is caught young and contains no mercury.
10. Chilean Sea Bass: Chilean sea bass come from fishermen who have captured them illegally. Stocks are so low that Greenpeace estimates the entire species will be extinct very soon Try haddock as an alternative.