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Healthy and Sustainable Seafood Choices

We are lucky to live in a country with some of the largest and most sustainable fisheries in the world, giving us access to healthy and abundant seafood. U.S. commercial fishermen landed 9.6 billion pounds of seafood valued at $5.3 billion in 2016. During that same year, U.S. marine and freshwater aquaculture production was valued at $1.4 billion, equal to about 21 percent of the value of the nation’s combined seafood production (commercial wild catch and aquaculture combined).

Seafood is a health food choice, providing nutrients that help build strong bones, develop our brains, and support healthy immune and cardiovascular systems. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend we eat eight or more ounces of seafood per week. Although we may not all be eating quite that much seafood, the US is ranked second among seafood consuming countries! During 2016, we ate approximately 14.9 pounds of seafood per person.

Some of our stocks are still on rebuilding plans because their numbers are too low. However, there are still plenty of sustainable options available, both wild and farmed. We are highlighting several of these healthy stocks, caught here in the Greater Atlantic Region, for you to consider during the holidays to help you make smart seafood choices as you plan meals for family and friends.

Here are some of the species we are highlighting through social media (#sustainablestocks #ouroceanourhealth), and you can find more information on these and other healthy fish choices on our FishWatch site.

Wild Caught Species


Haddock

U.S. wild-caught haddock is a smart seafood choice because it is sustainably managed and responsibly harvested under U.S. regulations. Its population numbers are strong, and it is harvested at recommended levels. Available year-round, haddock is a great source of low-fat protein, magnesium, and selenium.

Haddock are primarily caught using trawl gear, but area closures and gear restrictions are in place to reduce the impacts of trawl gear on habitat. Fishermen must also abide by regulations designed to minimize the catch of non-target species (including marine mammals) while fishing for haddock.


Atlantic Sea Scallops

In our region, sea scallops are plentiful and are being harvested at recommended levels. Scallops are mostly caught by dredge, but area closures and gear restrictions are in place to protect sensitive habitat on the ocean floor. Gear restrictions and seasonal area closures are also used to minimize the catch of non-target species when fishing for scallops.

Atlantic sea scallops have a sweet rich taste that can range from mild to quite briny and salty. Raw, these scallops are shiny and creamy white, though they sometimes have an orange or pinkish tint which is a natural variation that does not affect taste or quality. Available year round, sea scallops are packed with selenium and B vitamins, and are a great source of low-fat protein.

Silver Hake

Also known as whiting, silver hake are currently abundant and are being harvested at recommended levels. In our region, whiting is most often caught using a raised footrope trawl, which means that the gear rides one to two feet above the ocean floor. This prevents the catch of non-target species, like flatfish, that stay close to the bottom. Sometimes, whiting are also harvested by mid-water trawl, which rides higher in the water column so there is minimal impact on the bottom.

Mild and sweet, hake has softer flesh and is less flaky than other whitefish such as cod, haddock, and pollock. It is a good source of selenium, vitamin B, magnesium, and low-fat protein.

Farmed Species

Eastern Oysters

Throughout our region, Eastern Oysters are grown in tidal areas. They can be grown directly on the bottom or in mesh bags, trays or cages that are either anchored in the water column or floated on rafts. Did you know that growing oysters requires no feed? Instead, oysters filter phytoplankton directly from the water column, which improves water quality by removing excess nutrients. However, shellfish toxins and bacteria do occur naturally in the environment and can cause food-borne illnesses. State and federal regulations require monitoring of farmed oysters to ensure that they are safe to eat.

Oysters are available year-round and their flavors range from sweet to briny. They are low in saturated fat and are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids and iron.


Atlantic Salmon


Fishing for wild Atlantic salmon is prohibited due to their endangered status. The U.S. farmed Atlantic salmon available in stores are grown and harvested under U.S. state and Federal regulations. These Atlantic salmon are spawned and raised in on-land hatcheries until they are old enough to transfer to net-pens in coastal waters, where they will grow for up to 18 months.

Farmed salmon are incredibly efficient at converting feed to edible protein, resulting in firm, fatty flesh with a buttery, rich flavor. Like wild-caught salmon, the flesh is reddish-orange or pink in color, and is rich in Omega-3 fatty acids. Antibiotic use is strictly limited in the United States and is used only on a case-by-case basis when prescribed by a veterinarian.

Blue Mussels

Throughout our region, Blue Mussels are grown in tidal

areas or in the open ocean. They can be grown directly on the bottom or suspended in the water column. Because mussels filter phytoplankton directly from the water column, they help clear the water of excess nutrients, which improves overall water quality in the area. However, shellfish toxins and bacteria do occur naturally in the environment and can cause food-borne illnesses. State and federal regulations require monitoring of farmed mussels to ensure that they are safe to eat.

Available year-round, mussels are low in saturated fat and are an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids.