13. Choose Sustainable Fish to Avoid Damaging the Ecosystem
One of the biggest threats to fish in the industry is over-fishing. Think of lakes, rivers, oceans, and other waterways as you would any other ecosystem. For all the fish species to thrive, there needs to be balance. Over-fishing disrupts this balance and it creates problems in the future. After all, if a species is over-fished, there won’t be nearly as many during breeding season to re-populate the ecosystem. It can even disrupt other species that are part of their food chain, whether it’s small fish or algae that overruns the area because they aren’t being eaten or a bigger animal that preys on them having to find something else to eat.
In 1997, the Marine Stewardship Council was created to promote sustainable fishing. They monitor fishing practices and award MSC certification to the companies that fish in a way that doesn’t deplete or harm the environment or seafood populations. Another alternative to buying sustainable seafood is buying farm-raised fish. Farm-raised fish are bred with the purpose of being sold for food. This reduces some of the strain on fish from natural waterways by meeting consumer demand without disrupting the ecosystem. Even then, however, you should be aware of marine fisheries and their fish-raising practices before buying. Some use antibiotics and feed fish foods like corn and grain, which decreases their nutritional benefits.
14. Eat Live, Fresh Shellfish and Store Fresh Fish Properly
When buying live shellfish like lobster, crabs, mussels, oysters, and clams, it’s important that you select them while they are still alive. As soon as shellfish die, they quickly start spoiling. Eating spoiled or improperly prepared seafood leads to foodborne illness, so it’s important to choose them while they are still alive. For shelled fish like mussels or clams, the best way to determine how fresh they are is a “tap test”. The tap test involves tapping on the outside of the shell with your finger. Live shellfish close their shell when tapped. You should also discard any that are broken or cracked. For live crabs and lobsters, there should be apparent leg movement if they are still alive.
With live and fresh seafood, it’s best to cook it and eat it not long after you bring it home. Otherwise, it rapidly starts going rancid and growing bacteria. Seafood that is going to be consumed within two days can be refrigerated, but it must be kept at temperatures below 40 degrees. Putting it on ice is another option as long as a consistent, cool temperature can be maintained. If you are not going to consume it, then wrap the seafood in plastic, foil, or moisture-proof paper and freeze. You’ll want to wrap it tightly to avoid air getting inside and causing freezer burn. Freezer burn negatively affects the texture and the flavor of meats.
It’s also important to follow safe cooking and thawing guidelines when consuming seafood. Seafood quickly grows bacteria when it sits at room temperature. Additionally, raw fish or fish that has not been properly cooked could contain parasites or cause foodborne illness. While there are some types of fish that people consume raw or undercooked, like in the case of sushi or medium-rare tuna, it’s important to note that these are considered sushi-grade fish. There are different standards because the fish is not being cooked all the way through. The food is prepared and processed differently to reduce the chance of parasites, however, consuming any kind of undercooked fish comes with this risk.
When thawing fish, never make the kitchen mistake of thawing at room temperature. Instead, thaw fish in the fridge overnight when possible. If you can’t, put it in a bag and submerge it in cold water or use the defrost setting. If defrosting, only warm it until the fish becomes slightly pliable and is still frozen. To kill bacteria and parasites, fish should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, check the flesh of the seafood. Fish flesh becomes clear and flakes easily with a fork. Shellfish like clams, oysters, and mussels all open and you should discard those that don’t. Finally, the flesh of scallops, lobster, crab, and shrimp become firm and clear when cooked.