Seafood is a staple in the Canadian diet, but choosing sustainable options can be confusing. According to the Ocean Wise Seafood Program, sustainable seafood is defined as farming or catching species of fish in a way that ensures their long term health and the health of the greater marine ecosystem. Right now, 85-90% of the world’s fish stocks are over-exploited, so organizations like Ocean Wise, Seafood Watch and Marine Stewardship Council are working hard to ensure we make the right choices when it comes to our seafood, not only to preserve future generations of fish, but also to protect our oceans and our health. Here, we break down the best sustainable seafood for you to buy and start cooking.
1. Arctic Char (Farmed)
Arctic char may look similar to salmon or rainbow trout with its pinky flesh, but its texture is more delicate with a milder flavour. You can cook it simply with a little lemon, salt and pepper, or get creative and smear a rich miso glaze on top. Arctic char is farmed in indoor recirculating tanks in the US, Canada and Iceland, which are considered one of the most environmentally responsible designs. This method of raising fish ensures the water is treated and filtered, decreasing the risk of pollution, and minimizing any negative impact on other aquatic habitats.
Get the recipe for Pan-Seared Arctic Char with Miso Gastrique
2. Cod (Pacific)
Cod is a buttery, delicate option that’s often touted as the “not-so-fishy” fish (so seafood skeptics may find it more palatable). Cod was a large part of Canada’s history, but unfortunately, in the 1990’s the cod industry off the shore of Newfoundland collapsed, and the stocks were depleted. Now, the best cod to buy is caught just off the coast of Alaska, using either long-line, pots or bottom-trawl methods. All of these methods impact the ocean, either by damaging the ocean floor or harvesting non-targeted fish species, but these Alaskan cod fisheries are so incredibly well-managed that they ensure regulations exist to evaluate fish stocks and reduce negative impacts to the seafloor.
Get the recipe for 30-Minute Cod with Lemony Braised Fennel
3. Albacore Tuna (B.C. & Atlantic)
It may shock you to see tuna on our list of the most sustainable seafood, but tuna that has been pole or troll caught, using lines off the coast of British Columbia and the Atlantic, are great choices. These methods reduce the rates of by-catch (unintentionally catching other species of fish), and if non-targeted fish species are caught, they can be released. Fishing this way also prevents damage to habitats, since these methods don’t touch the ocean floor. You can find albacore tuna fresh, frozen or canned. It’s most commonly known as the “white meat” tuna, and it’s the heart of a delicious tuna sandwich.
Get the recipe for Albacore Tuna Crumpwich
4. Shellfish: Clams, Mussels, Oysters, Scallops (Farmed)
Shellfish are a popular part of Canadian cuisine, from seared scallops to steamed mussels and clams to freshly shucked oysters. They’re farmed mainly in Eastern Canada and British Columbia using the off-bottom method, meaning they use floating rafts, bags or suspended ropes to raise the shellfish. Off-bottom farming doesn’t touch the ocean floor, and there is minimal by-catch, if any, so it’s incredibly sustainable. Shellfish are also known as filter feeders, because they eat particles found in the water, which actually filters and cleans it, allowing other marine life to thrive.
Get the recipe for East Coast Summer Scallops with Pea Puree
5. Sablefish (Alaska & B.C.)
Sablefish, also known as black cod, is a true delicacy. It’s buttery, velvety, mild and oh-so delicious, and luckily, it’s also sustainable. Sablefish is most commonly found along the pacific coast, especially near British Columbia and Alaska where the stocks are healthy. These fisheries are well-managed and have strong regulations that assess stocks, fishing levels, by-catch rates and restrict gear and entry in certain areas. This ensures there is no over-fishing or depletion of non-targeted fish.
Get the recipe for Roasted Sablefish in Dashi Broth
Fore more handy pointers, we’ve rounded up the best chef-approved tips when it comes to buying and cooking fish.