Food & dining

4 simple steps you can take to eat sustainable seafood

Locally sourced seafood on display at UMass Amherst’s Hampshire Dining Commons.
Matthew Cavanaugh for The Boston Globe
Locally sourced seafood on display at UMass Amherst’s Hampshire Dining Commons.

Eat more locally caught seafood. Many of the fish we eat are at risk of being overfished or harmed because of destructive fishing practices. At the same time, there are plentiful fish in our waters, specifically in the Gulf of Maine, which stretches from Nova Scotia down to Cape Cod. When we expand our tastes and eat more local, underutilized species, such as Acadian redfish, Atlantic pollock, dogfish, whiting, and Atlantic mackerel, we relieve pressure on overfished species, reduce our dependence on imports (about 90 percent of the seafood we eat is imported), and provide living wages to local fishermen.

Specifically ask for local. When buying seafood in the market or ordering it at a restaurant, always inquire if it’s local.

Forget the name: Buy a style. Instead of asking your fishmonger for a specific fish, request a general style, according to taste and texture. Regional options include flaky white fish (Acadian redfish, Atlantic pollock, flounder, haddock, white hake, whiting), meaty white fish (black sea bass, dogfish or cape shark, monkfish, skate, swordfish), rich, oily fish (Atlantic mackerel, bluefish, herring), and shellfish (clams, crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, squid, scallops).

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Look for labels and information. The Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested label (www.gmri.org) assures consumers that the seafood is traceable back to the Gulf of Maine, sustainable, and from well-managed (wild) fisheries. You can find GMRH seafood at Hannaford, Shaw’s, and Big Y supermarkets. The Monterey Bay Aquarium (www.seafoodwatch.org) and New England Aquarium (www.neaq.org/seafood) produce lists of ocean-friendly choices and species to avoid. The internationally recognized blue Marine Stewardship Council label also indicates that the seafood is sustainable.

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Lisa Zwirn can be reached at lisa@lisazwirn.com.