How to Make Sustainable Seafood Choices at the Fish Market

By Carl Safina, "Sea Change," March/April 2010

The seafood we eat has an enormous impact on our health today and the health of our oceans tomorrow.

"Thanks for a great article. Sure hope lots and lots of people read it. I've been eating sardines all my life (am now 74) and doctors are always amazed at how good my good cholesterol is. I tell them it's all the sardines I've eaten -...

Of all the things that are changing the ocean—including pollution, climate change and coastal development—fishing has brought the most profound change so far.

I’ve often said fishing is the last buffalo hunt—the last wild food we hunt and consume en masse. And it’s worth recalling the cautionary tale of North America’s most abundant bird, the passenger pigeon. In 1810, the pioneering ornithologist Alexander Wilson estimated one “almost inconceivable multitude” of pigeons as being roughly 240 miles long, containing 2.2 billion birds. After a century of being hunted for food, the last passenger pigeon on Earth died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.

Though “there are plenty of fish in the sea”—or were—abundance doesn’t make them immune from overexploitation. But the same researchers who warned of a total fisheries collapse before 2050 added that “at this point, these trends are still reversible,” if we improve management and declare ample no-fishing zones where fish can reproduce. (Click here to find 6 fish to serve.) The buffalo herds are gone and the passenger pigeon has passed—but there remains hope for the ocean.

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