Animal Tales

Ocean-Friendly Fish Fry

Sea TurtleIt’s fish fry season in Wisconsin, but before you order that breaded and deep-fried goodness, you might want to learn more about the fish itself. That’s because the seafood industry has a huge impact on the world’s waterways. Poor practices can result in overfishing, pollution, bycatch (the accidental catch of unwanted species) and more. But sustainable or ocean-friendly seafood options are out there.

The Milwaukee County Zoo, a conservation partner with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, and the Zoological Society of Milwaukee are working to promote sustainable seafood messaging and source it behind the scenes. The program empowers consumers and businesses to make choices for a healthy ocean. Using science-based, peer-reviewed methods, Seafood Watch assesses how fisheries and farmed seafood impact the environment and provides recommendations indicating which items are Best Choices or Good Alternatives and which ones to Avoid.

Zoo Pride volunteers in the Aquatic & Reptile Center

Zoo Pride volunteers Jennifer Herbert (right) and her mom, Jaci Steffes, staff a cart with sustainable seafood information at the Aquatic & Reptile Center.

Zoo Pride volunteers who staff the Aquatic & Reptile Center (ARC) are trained on Seafood Watch and sustainable seafood so they can inform visitors, says Jennifer Herbert, chair of the Zoo Pride Aquatic & Reptile Center Committee. Auriana Donaldson, Zoological Society conservation programs coordinator, says she hopes to raise more awareness by adding Seafood Watch signage in the bird building and near the Humboldt penguin, polar bear and otter exhibits. Volunteers have pocket-sized Seafood Watch consumer guides to hand out to guests, although Herbert notes that the Seafood Watch app offers even more information.

Donaldson also hopes to convince more local businesses to join Seafood Watch. Service Systems Associates, the Zoo’s concessions vendor, has been a Seafood Watch partner for more than 15 years. It will remove all seafood on Seafood Watch’s red list from its menus by 2025, says Andrew Fischer, SSA vice president of sustainability and conservation. Ocean Connections, which operates the seal and sea lion show at the Zoo, is also a Seafood Watch conservation partner. Screaming Tuna, with locations in Milwaukee and Mequon, has worked with Seafood Watch for about six years to assess the sustainability of its menu items.

Even businesses that aren’t part of Seafood Watch are getting used to explaining where their seafood comes from, Herbert says. “Now when you walk in the store with the Seafood Watch app, they’re familiar with it.” Donaldson says Seafood Watch and consumers have forced the entire seafood industry to improve their practices. “The demand has really driven change,” she says. “We’re excited to expand the program here.”

Dining & Shopping Tips From Seafood Watch

  1. Seafood WatchBe brave and branch out. In the U.S., shrimp, tuna and salmon are popular choices, but there are plenty of other sustainable choices, such as Arctic char, barramundi, clams, lingcod, mussels, sablefish (black cod), scallops, sole, oysters, pompano, rockfish, sanddabs, seaweed and U.S.-farmed trout.
  2. Become familiar with Seafood Watch recommendations. SeafoodWatch.org hosts more than 2,000 seafood recommendations covering 85% of the U.S. seafood market. Download the app or bookmark SeafoodWatch.org on your device.
  3. Ask tactical questions strategically. If you are at a restaurant or fish counter, ask the server or fishmonger what they can tell you about the fish. Then you can follow up with questions about where the fish comes from and if it’s wild or farmed.

For more tips and information, visit seafoodwatch.org/consumers.

This article appeared in the Spring 2020 issue of Alive magazine.