Ask the Ecologist:

by Belle Bergner

Q: I want to give up all meat products for Lent but don’t want to completely eliminate protein from my diet. Can you recommend some environmentally low-impact fish?

A: This is a great time to get eco-savvy about meat eating, including fish. Once Lent is over, try limiting your beef, pork, chicken and fish eating to just once or twice a week, or lower your portions when you do eat meat. Remember that it takes about 16 pounds of grain to produce a pound of meat – that’s a lot harder on our planet than if we just ate the grains ourselves.

A great fish guide is the Central US guide prepared by the Monterrey Bay Aquarium in California, which also has guides for other regions in the US for when you travel. At the end of this article are “Best Choices” and “Good Alternatives” taken from the Monterrey Bay’s guide for our neck of the woods. If you don’t see your favorite fish here, they may be on the “Worst” list. Check it out on Monterrey Bay’s website at

Important to note is the method of fishing used (in parentheses) for each particular species. This is often why particular fish species are good or bad to eat – because they are over-harvested or harvested in a way that damages other fish or marine life in the process. For example, note that the only type of cod recommended is Pacific: Alaska Longline, or Trawl-Caught. Atlantic cod, on the other hand, has been over-harvested and regulators are still struggling to manage this particular fishery. So avoid this one. The other big issue with some fish is their high mercury content. That’s why the Wisconsin DNR advises us to eat only one serving of fish per month from Wisconsin’s waters, including Lake Michigan.

Do you know if your favorite market fish or fish fry is sustainably harvested or if you are being fed a high mercury fish? Check the list below, look at the labels at the fish market, and ask your favorite fish fry restaurant to serve one of the choices below.

Send your ecological inquiries to our resident ecologist at bergnerb@gmail. com.

Riverwest Currents online edition – March, 2007