Fish is extremely popular the world over and most households will eat it once or twice a week. There is a huge variety of fish species on offer and what people choose to eat depends on a lot of factors. Taste, health benefits, cultural differences, and of course availability depending on where you are all come into play.
Fishing is getting more and more popular the world over and this is probably due to the health benefits of eating fish. Eat fish gives you all kinds of nutrients from vitamin D, protein to essential omega-3 fatty acids. It is also beneficial in reducing heart disease and it’s been proven that eating fish once a week can reduce the risk of getting diabetes.
Unfortunately fish becoming more popular couldn’t come at a worse time. World fish stocks are at an all-time low and if consumption isn’t lowered and fish stocks managed sustainably, we could see the end of some of the species we have come to love. Fish are also being farmed more and more, and one may think that farming fish has less of an impact but unfortunately this is not the case.
So what are the most popular fish to eat and what the sustainable consequences of eating them?
Salmon has always been very popular and it has seen an increase in consumption due to the world suddenly getting into sushi more than they used to. Salmon are delicious and very nutritious and there are a few different types. There are the Atlantic Salmon and the many types of Pacific Salmon, which include chinook, pink salmon, king salmon and the most commonly eaten one, sockeye salmon. Salmon are born in freshwater and then migrate to the sea to feed. After a few years they return to the same river they were born in to spawn (reproduce).
Wild Atlantic Salmon are in trouble and their numbers have been falling for years. This is due to overfishing, changing weather patterns and the state of the rivers they return to so they can reproduce. If you are eating Atlantic Salmon, 99% of the time it will not be wild, it’ll be farmed. Atlantic Salmon farms can be found all around Europe and the US and there is a major problem with the sea lice. Parasitic sea lice will attach themselves to the farmed salmon, this happens because they are kept in a cage. When wild salmon or sea-trout pass by, they also get infected and because they cannot be treated with medications like the farmed salmon, they end up dying. Salmon farms have had a hugely negative effect on the populations of wild salmon and sea trout.
It’s not all doom and gloom though. The pacific sockeye salmon caught in Alaska are wild and sustainable. The fishery is so well regulated that it’s truly sustainable. I would recommend to all you salmon lovers out there to reduce your salmon intake and when you do want to eat some, buy wild Alaskan sockeye salmon and avoid Atlantic salmon at all costs.
Everyone knows about tuna and its wildly popular. Most of the tuna eaten in the world is canned tuna which is made from skipjack tuna. Then there are the yellowfin, bigeye, albacore and bluefin tuna. All forms of tuna are quite delicious and very healthy. It’s a great source of minerals, protein, vitamin B1, B3, B6, B12, and selenium.
Tuna can live up to 20 years and a young tuna is about a foot long whereas an adult bluefin can reach up to 15 feet long. They are incredible animals and integral to the diet of the world’s population. Unfortunately, tuna stocks are not managed as well as they should be and most of them are fully exploited, so there is no room to catch anymore. Some are overexploited and on the brink of collapse, as adult tuna are being caught faster than they can reproduce. According to the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation, 65% of tuna stocks are at a healthy level of abundance, but 13% are considered overfished.
If you’re into tuna, then the canned variety is fine. Just be careful about eating yellowfin tuna and bluefin tuna, as these are the two in the most trouble.
Tilapia are native to Africa but are now farmed in over 135 countries and China is the biggest farmer of them all. They are a very sustainable fish to farm. They happily live in fresh or brackish water, survive in crowded conditions, grow fast, reproduce quickly and they only eat vegetables. The fact that they only eat vegetables is a huge bonus, as one doesn’t have to kill fish to feed them, like with salmon.
Tilapia are great to eat and are full of vitamins, potassium and phosphorous. They are the cheapest fish to buy and one of the most sustainable, so if you haven’t tried them yet, it’s time to.
4. Alaskan Pollock
Alaskan Pollock is very popular in the US. It is known for its white low oil content, white color, and a mild taste. It has a great texture and the mild taste makes it easy to add flavors to when cooking. You probably think you haven’t eaten Alaskan pollock but you most probably have. It’s very common in North America and is McDonald’s use it in their Filet-O-Fish sandwiches.
It’s very healthy due to its high nutrient content and also helps prevent heart disease and improves brain health. Its fished for the northern Pacific Ocean and it’s sustainable. The fishery is managed well by the US and the stocks are said to be above target levels. The fishing methods have a minimal impact on the habitat and the bycatch is one of the cleanest at below 1%. Overall it’s a great fish to eat for taste, health and sustainability reasons and you should add it to your list to try if you haven’t already.
There you have it, the most popular fish to eat in the world. Next time you go shopping, forget your habits and think about the fish you’re buying and how sustainable they are. If we all do it, the fish stocks of the world will have a chance.