As a kid I ate fish at least once a week, usually on Friday and tuna was a common ingredient for a quick sandwich. Living on the Eastern seaboard, I was especially fond of a small, skillet-size variety called butter fish. It was small and bony, as I recall, and would never make a best fish list. I recently spotted it at Global Foods and wondered if my mature taste buds would still find it as appealing.
My mother said that as a child in Virginia, she often ate salted herring—sometimes called “fish-of-little-flesh”—that was preserved in a barrel to see them through the winter months.
Today we are told that not all fish are equal. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch has created a “Super Green” list of seafood. To be cited, the fish must come from the least-pressured habitats, be free of mercury and dioxins, and contain the highest levels of healthy omega-3s. Below is their list of the best and the worst seafood selections based on those criteria. A printable, pocket-size list is available here designed specifically for the Midwest.
Albacore Tuna (troll- or pole-caught, from US or British Columbia): Albacore caught in western U.S. and Canadian waters have lower levels of mercury.
Wild Salmon: (from Alaska): Wild salmon has a bit more healthy omega 3s, but farm salmon has twice the saturated fat. On canned fish, look for the blue MSC eco-label of the Marine Stewardship Council, indicating support for healthy oceans and responsibly managed fisheries.
Oysters (farmed): Good source of zinc, iron and omega-3s. Often considered the “brain food,” because the zinc content of oysters helps boost mental energy and is a mood elevator.
Pacific Sardines (wild-caught): Packs more omega-3s per serving than salmon or tuna and unlike most food is naturally high in vitamin D.
Rainbow Trout (farmed): Those farmed in freshwater ponds are protected from contaminants too often found in lakes.
Freshwater Coho Salmon (farmed in tank systems in U.S.): Raised in closed freshwater pens, Coho Salmon is the only farmed salmon to get the Super Green rating from Seafood Watch.
Other fish on the Best Choice list include: Striped Bass, Catfish, Pacific Cod, Yellow Perch, farmed Scallops and Shrimp, Tilapia from U.S. or Ecuador, U.S. farmed Rainbow Trout.
According to Seafood Watch, the fish to avoid because they are being depleted, carry high level of mercury or other health warnings include: Bluefish Tuna; Chilean Sea Bass; Grouper; Monkfish; Orange Roughy; most Farmed Salmon (except Coho Salmon), imported Mahi Mahi, and Pacific Cod.
If you’re in the mood for cooking some fresh seafood, be sure to check out the Ten Minute Rule for Cooking Fish. Very helpful guide.