By Chef Bryan Szeliga, December 2011
Buying local has become a popular topic for produce and to some degree beef, pork, and poultry. This is a philosophy that is also important when it comes to buying seafood.
When you are buying seafood you are not just buying a piece of fish, you are providing a fisherman with a livelihood. The overall economic health of many coastal communities relies on the success of fishermen!
In 2010, 86% of the seafood Americans consumed was imported! China, Thailand, Indonesia, and Vietnam are a few of the top seafood suppliers of the 5.5 billion pounds imported into the United States.
The largest volume of fish were shrimp, freshwater fish, tuna, salmon, ground fish, and crabs. For most of these species there is a responsible domestic alternative to the imported seafood.
Here are a few responsible domestic seafood choices:
Shrimp - This seafood is one of the most difficult to find a responsible alternative for due to the high levels of by-catch associated with most shrimp fishing. With that said, although it is not domestic, trap-caught British Columbia spot prawns (Canadian northern prawn) are a responsible shrimp choice.
Freshwater fish - Catfish and trout
Tuna - Oregon albacore tuna
Salmon - Bristol Bay wild sockeye salmon or Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission salmon
Ground fish - Pollock and cod from the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska, and North Pacific halibut.
Crabs - Chesapeake Bay Blue crab and Oregon Dungeness crab
I believe changing our current buying AND eating habits is critical for the long-term success of sustainable seafood. By changing our buying habits, we can decrease the carbon footprint associated with transporting seafood from/to foreign countries. This decrease would occur because the transportation of 5.5 billion pounds of imported seafood and exportation of 2.7 billion pounds of seafood would both be decreased.
Also, the money spent on domestic seafood would go directly back into the US economy.
By changing our eating habits we would eat less imported seafood and choose responsible domestic alternatives. This change is a win/win for domestic fishermen and the long-term success of sustainable seafood!
Fishmonger Question: Was this fish caught or farmed domestically?
Recipe: Blue Crab Dip
Fact: In 2010 shrimp was the largest imported seafood, valued at $4.3 billion. Over 30% of the shrimp imported came from Thailand.
Source: National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Fish Watch – U.S. Seafood Facts
The Columbia River Intertribal Fish Commission helps native fishermen along the Columbia River watershed to market and sell their fish. CRITFC played a key roll in bringing the Okanagan sockeye salmon runs back to healthy levels.
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, National Marine Fisheries Service, Fish Watch – U.S. Seafood Facts
Chef Bryan Szeliga, an avid fly fisherman and salmon conservationist is currently devoting his time and energy to promote a better understanding of sustainable seafood.