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No Fish, Go Fish: A Guide to Responsible Eating

The No Fish, Go Fish Wallet Card
There's a lot to remember when it comes to responsible fish eating. And just so you don't have to memorize all those details, we've provide a wallet-sized card that you can carry and consult when you shop or dine out:

Download the No Fish, Go Fish Wallet Card.
(requires Adobe Acrobat Reader to view)



Next time you are in the fish market or grocery store, take a look at the array of streamlined silver bodies, fillets, and steaks, and imagine a similar display in every fish market in your city, replenished every day; then extend this to all of the fish markets in the developed world, and ask yourself: How can the wild support this yield? It can't. Many populations of fish and shellfish have declined drastically as human demand has increased. One response to this problem has been the development of fish hatcheries and farms. In some cases these fisheries have been successful, providing significant bounty and taking pressure off wild populations, but in other instances, fish farms have had disastrous effects on the ecosystems around them (see Wild Salmon vs. Farmed: The Real Story).

So can the consumer enjoy the health benefits of fish without contributing to the worldwide decline of natural fish populations and the degradation of ocean and river habitats? You can, and we're here to help.


The Fish List
The Fish List divides several dozen types of food fish and shellfish into three categories: Go-Go Fish, So-So Fish, and No-No Fish. Use it as a guide when you are ordering fish in a restaurant or perusing the catch of the day at your market. Make a habit of reading labels, asking questions, and letting your local merchants know that you will only purchase products from lists of sustainable seafood.

View the Fish List


Go-Go Fish are those that you can purchase at the market or order in a restaurant with a clear conscience. Many of these are fast-growing species that are holding their own in the wild. Others are considered good choices because they are successfully farmed with minimal impact on surrounding ecosystems. There are also many delicious choices in this category that are still harvested from the wild, but in fisheries that are managed in a way that allows sufficient natural reproduction. No-No Fish are those that responsible consumers will want to scratch off their eating lists. Many of these are severely overfished, others are harvested by methods that are destructive to other species. Some species are on the don't eat list because they are slow-growing and do not reproduce at a rate that can replace losses. Also listed are species that are plentiful enough but that are farmed in ways that are harmful to the environment. So-So Fish fall somewhere in between the other two. Some of them are not yet seriously declining but soon will be if they are not better regulated. Others are fished in ways that are beginning to impact their habitats. You should think twice before ordering fish from this category.

The Fish List

No-No Fish -- Why you shouldn’t eat these fish:
Beluga Sturgeon (Beluga caviar). Overfished and unmanaged.
Chilean Seabass (Patagonian Toothfish). Reaches sexual maturity very slowly; long-line fishing results in deaths of tens of thousands of albatrosses.
Clams, dredged. Harvest methods cause habitat destruction.
Groupers. Most species overfished; in many species, large adults are all males.
Lingcod. Okay if from Alaska; overfished off West Coast.
Monkfish. Overfished.
Orange Roughy (Slimehead). Overfished; reaches sexual maturity very slowly.
Oysters, dredged. Harvest methods cause habitat destruction.
Rockfish (Pacific Red Snapper, Rock Cod). Overfished; slow-growing.
Salmon, Atlantic. Wild stocks overfished; farmed escapees dilute gene pool; farms pollute oceans; wild fish populations depleted to feed farmed fish.
Scallops dredged. Harvest methods cause habitat destruction.
Sharks (shark cartilage, shark fin). Many species overfished; slow-growing; produce few young.
Shrimp and prawns, farmed. Farming destroys mangrove forests, pollutes the environment with antibiotics and waste, and wild fish populations depleted to feed farmed shrimp.
Shrimp and prawns, trawled. Trawling damages the seabed; massive bycatch.
Sturgeon, wild. Many species endangered by habitat loss and overfishing.
Swordfish, Atlantic. Severely overfished.
Swordfish, Pacific. Stocks heavily fished.
Tuna, Bluefin (Maguro). Overfished.

So-So Fish -- Why you should think twice before eating these fish:
Crab, Alaskan King. Managed, but becoming overfished.
Crab, Snow. Managed, but heavily fished.
Lobster, Northern (clawed, American, Maine). Managed, but heavily overfished.
Lobsters, spiny (langoustines, crayfish). Slow-growing; overfished almost everywhere except Cuba and Australia.
Snappers, tropical (huachinango). Most species overfished; larvae die in shrimp trawl nets.
Sole, Petrale, English, and Dover. Most soles and flatfishes are caught by trawl fishing, an ecologically destructive practice that often results in excessive bycatch.

Go-Go Fish -- Why these fish are okay to eat:
Anchovies. Fast-growing; abundant.
Bluefish, Atlantic. Fast-growing; abundant.
Catfish, farmed. Fast-growing; herbivorous; raised in ponds.
Cod, Pacific. Abundant; well-regulated fishery.
Crayfish (crawfish, crawdad). Appropriately farmed.
Crab, Dungeness. Well-regulated fishery.
Herrings & sardines. Abundant in certain seas.
Halibut, Pacific (Alaskan). Abundant; well-regulated fishery.
Mackerel. Fast-growing.
Mahi-mahi (Dorado, Dolphinfish). Fast-growing; mature rapidly.
Mussels, farmed. Can be farmed without major environmental impact.
Oysters, farmed. May help clean waters; those raised in nets don’t disturb seabed.
Pollock, Pacific (Surimi, Krab). Not overfished, but fishery competes with declining northern (Steller) sea lions.
Prawns, California Spotted. Captured by trapping; no bycatch.
Salmon, wild (Alaskan and Californian). Many stocks sensibly managed.
Scallops, farmed. Abundant.
Shrimp, Atlantic Northern Pink. Abundant; captured without environmental damage.
Squid (calamari). Abundant; most die after one year.
Striped Bass, farmed. Inland ponds have little environmental impact.
Sturgeon, farmed. Controlled inland rearing ponds with little environmental impact.
Tilapia, farmed. Fast-growing; eat plants, not other fish.
Trout, farmed. Raised in freshwater ponds with little environmental impact.
Tuna, Pacific Albacore (Tombo Tuna). Well-regulated fishery causes little or no bycatch.
Tuna, Yellowfin (Ahi). Abundant; fairly well-managed fishery; “dolphin safe” labeling and monitoring program reduces dolphin kills.

Information courtesy of Dr. John McCosker and the California Academy of Sciences.

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