5 Questions to ask at the Seafood Counter

5 Questions to ask at the Seafood Counter

Approaching the seafood counter can be intimidating—there’s just so much to choose from. But if you look closely, you’ll notice someone is there to help you. Fishmongers can be your closest ally when it come to finding the best-tasting, most sustainable fish at the counter. Of course, you’ll need to know what questions to ask them first and these five will ensure you get exactly what you want.

What’s good today?

The first thing you want to assess is whether or not the fish is fresh. There are a few ways to determine this on your own. For example, fish that smells, well…fishy, probably isn’t the best choice; you’ll also want to bypass whole fish that have cloudy eyes (the clearer, the better).

If you’re in doubt, ask! Fishmongers will be happy to fill you in on what’s just arrived, or what they think is the best quality. If they’re excited about a certain product, it must be good.

How was this sourced?

Selecting the best fish isn’t just about flavor—it’s also about origin. Seek out fish that was caught using responsible methods, such as pole-and-line or harpoon. It’s important to do your research and inquire about which methods were used to catch each species; with problems like overfishing at the forefront of the industry, species that were classified as sustainable a few weeks ago may not be the best choice today.

But it’s not just about the environment—we must also approach the fish counter with ethics in mind. Remember to ask your fishmonger about how the fisheries’ practices impact public health, communities and animal welfare to ensure you’re supporting the most sustainable and the most ethical farmers.

Where does this come from?

Don’t assume all fish is caught locally. In fact, you’ll often find that the fish at your neighborhood grocery store has been imported from all over the world. While this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, you should be aware that some countries or regions use less responsible fishing methods than others.

Atlantic cod, for example, is generally a sustainable choice, but Pacific cod, usually caught by bottom longline, is not. Shrimp caught in the U.S. are fine, but shrimp imported from Thailand may have been processed by fisheries that exhibit unethical behaviors.

Knowing where your fish comes from isn’t the easiest way to determine whether it’s responsible or not (more research is often required), but it’s certainly an important question to ask at the fish counter.

Does this fishery have any sustainable or ethical certifications?

Fish doesn’t have to be certified to be sustainable, but this classification does help us to more easily identify (and trust!) how our food has been raised. The Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council both certify seafood according to a list of stringent criteria, many of which are based on guidelines from the United Nations. If you see one of their labels, you’re supporting the best of the best.

How do I cook this?

When you go to the fish counter with freshness and sustainability in mind, you may end up buying a species you’ve never tried before. But luckily, your fishmonger can lend a hand with this, too.

Ask which flavors pair well with the fish in question, and then ask a few questions about cooking temperature, time and method (steaming, frying, roasting, baking). Fishmongers may not be able to give you a full step-by-step recipe, but they’ll definitely be able to point you in the right direction.

Venturing into your local fish shop may seem a bit overwhelming, but there’s no reason to be scared. Using a fishmonger as your guide will give you the confidence to experiment with new species and flavors and, at the same time, help you to have a positive impact on the state of our oceans.

Learn more about the importance of choosing sustainable fish—and where to find it.

Photo Credit: Kondor83 / Shutterstock Inc.


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