Monday, December 17, 2018

Rant: Americans Eating More Seafood, But Still Not Enough

The leading cause of death in the U.S. is heart disease, killing over 614,000 people each year. You can be proactive and significantly reduce your chances of heart disease by one simple lifestyle choice, eating more seafood. Over 20,000 research studies have been conducted on the health benefits of seafood and they have concluded that eating seafood twice a week can reduce your chance of dying from heart disease by about 36%. You won't find another single food that has been scientifically proven to reduce heart disease so much. Besides helping to reduce heart disease, research has also been providing growing evidence of the health benefits to the brain and bones as well as against cancers and inflammatory diseases.

So why aren't you eating seafood twice a week?

Last week, there was some good news, that Americans consumed more seafood in 2017 than the previous year, an increase of 1.1 pounds per capita to 16 pounds. However, that is still 10 pounds less than the recommended annual amount of 26 pounds, based on seating seafood twice a week. Americans still need to eat much more seafood. The increase in 2017 is a positive step, but it must continue.

In the last 18 years, the highest annual seafood consumption was in 2005 with 16.6 pounds, dropping to a low of 14.4 pounds in 2012. A positive increase occurred in 2015 when annual consumption actually increased nearly a pound to 15.5 pounds but 2016 saw that figure fall, down to 14.9 pounds. 2017 echoed 2015, seeing a 1.1 pound increase to 16 pounds.

For comparison, in 2018, it is predicted that Americans will eat an annual average of 222 pounds of red meat and poultry. Annual average seafood consumption is less than 7% of this amount, indicative of how little seafood Americans actually eat. There is so much room for the growth of seafood consumption, with only a relatively minimal decrease in meat and poultry consumption. With all of the health benefit of seafood, why can't you increase your consumption?

In more good news, it seems that Americans are starting to be more diverse in the seafood species they consume. Despite the fact that there are between 300 and 500 different species of fish and shellfish available for sale, American consumption of different types has been very limited. In 2014, about 55% of the seafood consumed in the U.S. was limited to three types: shrimp, canned tuna and salmon. And 90% of what was consumed was limited to only 10 different types.

In 2015, those ten species included: Shrimp (4 lbs), Salmon (2.9 lbs), Tuna (2.2 lbs), Tilapia (1.4 lbs), Alaska Pollock (1.0 lbs), Pangasius (.7 lbs), Cod (.6 lbs), Crab (.6 lbs), Catfish (.5 lbs), and Clams (.3 lbs). These Top Ten species constituted about 14.2 pounds of annual consumption, with another 1.3 pounds of miscellaneous species. Positive change was seen in 2017, as the Top Ten species decreased from 90% to 84%, down to 13.5 pounds with 2.5 pounds of other miscellaneous species. In 2017, the Top Ten species included: Shrimp (4.4 lbs), Salmon (2.41 lbs), Tuna (2.1 lbs), Tilapia (1.08 lbs), Alaska Pollock (.78 lbs), Pangasius (.71 lbs), Cod (.66 lbs), Crab (.52 lbs), Catfish (.53 lbs), and Clams (.31 lbs).

By limiting ourselves to primarily ten species, we put heavy pressures on those seafood populations, causing sustainability issues. It is why many of those species have quotas, because their populations would be threatened by unregulated fishing. We need to ease those pressures by lowering consumption of those species, and consuming other species that don't have sustainability issues. We have to give the populations of those ten common species more time to rebound and recover.

By limiting ourselves to primarily ten species, we are also hurting the economic situation of our fishermen, driving some of them out of business. With strict quotas on the most common seafood species, it gets harder and harder to make a living by catching those fish. Fishermen harvest many other different seafood species but there is little market for many of those species so they can't earn much money from those catches. If Americans started consuming more of those less common species, the market for them would grow, helping fishermen make more money. We should cherish our local fishermen and help protect them, especially when it is so easy to do so by simply consuming different types of seafood. Don't you want to help your local community?

Get over your psychological barriers! Don't be afraid of something unfamiliar and take a chance on a different fish. It is time now to stop eating the same old fish all the time and experiment with less common seafood, to broaden your palate to the pleasure of whelks and sardines, cobia and mackerel. You will enjoy the tastes if you only give them a chance, especially if you dine at a good restaurant which knows how to properly prepare seafood. For the sake of sustainability, to save our oceans and all of the endangered species, to save our fishermen, this is an excellent choice and one you should seriously consider.

So please follow these simple recommendations:
  • Eat seafood at least twice a week. 
  • Eat more sustainable seafood. 
  • Eat more local seafood. 
  • Eat more diverse seafood, and not just the usual suspects.

No comments: