It’s not always easy being a conscientious shopper. And for those of us who have pledged Fish Food, sustainable fish shopping can be a murky underwater minefield. Mackerel is sustainable, right? Well, actually, it’s not so sustainable anymore. And never EVER buy cod. Except sometimes that’s ok too.
Amy at EatBigFish pledged On yer bike and Fish Food after hearing about Henry’s challenge to run, cycle and kayak across Scotland in just one day. To Amy, Henry’s 24 hour extravaganza sounded ‘just dreadful’ so she promptly pledged twice, to make him feel a bit better about his daunting feat. While she found cycling to work was ‘always nicer’ and something she ‘never regretted’, eating sustainable fish was more daunting.
So I’ve been delving a little deeper on the Marine Conservation Society ‘Fish Online’ website, finding out how to make a fishy shopping trip more straightforward. From information on individual fish to explanations about fishing methods and fishing areas, it’s the online authority for the savvy seafood shopper. I’ve come up with six top tips from the site to make sustainable fish shopping easy:
1. Equip yourself with a sustainable fish guide
Available on the MSC website, this fabulous guide gives you the ins and outs of fish sustainability. Fish are rated from 1-5: one for ‘pretty sustainable’ and five ‘to be avoided’. If you’ve got a clever phone, why not download their app to keep you up-to-date while you’re at the shops?
2. Seasonality matters
The best time to buy fish is outside of their breeding months and when they’ve matured in size. Even if there’s a lot of something, it doesn’t take long to decimate stocks if we’re eating all the mums.
Click here for a fab seasonality chart to help organise your shopping calendar.
3. Get to know your fishmonger
They’re the real experts! If you’re shopping at a supermarket, try to find one with a fish counter and get chatting. Learn the difference between demersal otter trawling, dredging and tangle nets, enjoy a nice chat and show that consumers care about sustainability.
4. Get inventive with recipes
The MCS website features a recipe of the month: this month it’s rainbow trout with hazelnut and sage – yum! Don’t assume top chefs have sustainability on their minds when creating a recipe, but if you’ve found a great looking dish remember that most fish is easily replaceable. For example, pollock is a great (and cheaper) substitute for haddock.
5. Be adaptable
Things change. As certain fish go in and out of fashion, as weather patterns change, fish sustainability can vary widely. Keep checking for the latest advice and get to know as many different sustainable species as you can. Variety is, after all, the spice of life!
6. Practise makes perfect
Enjoy your developing understanding of fishy sustainability and don’t feel overwhelmed if you don’t get it right every time. Every little helps – and the more you ask, question and educate yourself, the bigger the difference you’ll be making.