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Dec 28, 2008 07:52 AM

Sustainable foods: what do you avoid?

While I have avoided shark fin soup and chilean sea bass (though I was happy to hear that WF carries Monterey Bay approved csb), I thought this thread has been very informative:

I haven't had sea cucumber in years (easily over a decade) but didn't know it was near depletion. It's good to know and another thing to add to the list. I've been thinking there' s so much cumulative knowledge in the CH world, it would helpful to have a thread that has all the foods CHer avoid and why. So, what have you, as a socially conscious issue, stopped eating and why?

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  1. Sturgeon and Blue Fin Tuna come to mind. The latter being fairly well known as an endangered species and suffering from extreme over fishing. Sturgeon on the other hand, doesnt get the attention that other fishes get. They have one of the longest reproductive cycles of any fish(sturgeon trivia: they are hermaphrodidic and they are one of like 5 species of fish that make multiple spawning migrations in their life). When a fish doesnt start reproducing until it reaches about age 20 and their eggs are so highly prized in certain communities(Russian) it sets them up for doom.
    I live in the PNW and there are pockets of immigrant Russians that have in recent years been caught running Caviar smuggling rings! They go catch Breeding size sturgeon(about 4 feet and larger. larger ones are the most prolific and ofcourse, highly prized.....they reach 12-14ft in the Columbia, weigh in excess of 1000lbs and can contain 75lbs of eggs!) gut them and throw the carcass back(a la Sharkfin poachers). Its disgusting, but our govts. handling of them is even more repugnant........they get a "fishing violation"! Which means they get their fishing license revoked!??

    Sorry for the rant, This is a subject that hits very close to home for me. If we allow the Columbia River Sturgeon population to be decimated, we will lose one of the most majestic living Dinosaurs we have left!

    4 Replies
    1. re: nkeane

      I'm actually looking for the rants. I think there's so much out there that people locally see that the rest of us don't.

      1. re: nkeane

        Ditto on the sturgeon. There used to be enormous numbers of those leviathans swimming around the bays and rivers here in NorCal. They were so plentiful that during the Gold Rush, bars would serve caviar for free - like peanuts. Now the populations are just about gone. At least here, someone convicted of felony conspiracy to illegally take sturgeon is subject to a $15,000 fine and three years in prison.

        That said, there is some sturgeon aquaculture that's going on, and the fish farmers tend to be pretty heavily involved in conservation efforts. So if you have a chance to buy farmed sturgeon, you may actually be doing a good deed.

        1. re: alanbarnes

          Sturgeon is returning to the Penobscot River here in Maine.
          Wild Atlantic salmon and cod may never return in large numbers.

          1. re: alanbarnes

            The people farming sturgeon in the US and Italy are doing a good job.Have mostly achieved no-harm egg gathering,very rational/sustainable.
            Yet turn to the alligator gar,treated like a trash animal for ?? sport,because it is ugly.
            Where do we go next to educate?Shark fin and electrocuted chickens/best covered in the "social" thread soory

        2. 1. Shark fin, for the reasons given on the other thread.
          2. Bush meat in SE Asia (e.g., pangolin) and central Africa (that can inlude non-human primates)
          3. Nile perch sold in Europe: an exotic, the Nile perch has wiped out the herbivore fish; leading to uncontrolled algal growth and to eutrophication of the lake. The industry is controlled by a few; but has attracted many - leading to drug addiction, crime, AIDS, and general dispair around the region; and to suspected cases of the Russian cargo planes coming back from Europe with arms destined for other parts of Africa.

          1 Reply
          1. Monkfish. I see recipes in lots of books, and offered in restaurants and at Whole Foods.

            1. A humble suggestion, get a fishing license. Every urban center, nearly has downtown fishing. When I visit my bro in Nev. I get up early and fish the Colorado R in the cool of morning. Mom lived 28 mi from NYC; great fishing. Austin? Lots of state parks near by w/ no need for license and loaner equipment. Blew my daughters mind when I brought home live trout in a bucket and poached some truite bleu. These are stocked species and the experience is mind healthy. Hunting I refer to as armed hiking and is a win-win experience. Spiritual too. Meat that hounds can't buy.
              I avoid supermarket chicken and meat it endangers moi.

              17 Replies
              1. re: Passadumkeg

                Yeah, my going fishing's not going to happy. It is ideal, just as my BIL's hunting, but I don't have the patience. Sit still and be quiet? I drove everyone crazy by pulling in the line repeatedly to see how far I could it. They were happy when I left for a run.

                1. re: Passadumkeg

                  Do you know the regulations and where to fish around DC? Waters are close, but?? Have always wanted to go fishing there.

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    In Virginia, you need a license if you're over (I think) it's 16 but could be 12. Anyway, an adult. But there are quite a few places you can fish, though you need to be very patient, at least where we've gone. There are some stocked lakes. If you stay close to DC, most people I know fish for sport and not food because of quantity/type. There are some stocked lakes. The people I know who fish for food, tend to go out farther.

                    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                      There are 3 juridictions involved.Each has two sets of rules.Instate/resident license and instate non-resident license.I'll get back to you with the information.If you
                      get curious before my response.look under fish & wildlife or dept of natural recources
                      DC may be reciprical even in this $$$$ grubbing day and age.

                    2. re: Passadumkeg

                      and the water features at golf courses.All about liking everything about where you are.Tee
                      off at first light,play the par ? 3's ,spend the rest of the AM fishing.It has become risky in the areas where alligators are back,but they belong here also.

                      1. re: Passadumkeg

                        Good advice, even for those who don't have any interest in fishing or hunting. License fees are one of the most effective ways to channel money into wildlife management and habitat preservation. I seldom hunt ducks, but I buy a waterfowl stamp every year.

                        1. re: Passadumkeg

                          Ehh, stocked fish come with their own set of problems... Sustainable hunting and fishing is good eats (and good times)--so long as 300 million Americans don't do start doing it.

                          1. re: xanadude

                            Wild deer and out of control kudzu. We need to change the American diet to eating things that are way out of control. It's too bad we can't just forage for non-native invasive plants because there is much out there.

                            1. re: chowser

                              Local deer wild??Mine wink when they go past.Very unwelcome and very acclimated,dropping off a long list of parasites as they go.
                              Out of control kudzu is valuable livestock forage.The US seems unwilling to allow
                              for small scale grazing,highway goats or pigs.A fairly common sight where US abundance and ?waste is not the norm.

                              1. re: lcool

                                Our deer are suicidal! Five, yes 5, have killed themselves on the front bumper of my car. (Awfully expensive road kill stew.) And you wonder why I hunt poor Bambi?
                                Some dude in the south is processing kudzu into kudzuahol and running his vehicles with it.

                            2. re: xanadude

                              I don't like the fact that invasive species have been introduced to a number of our watersheds, but I do like eating them. Wild native trout = catch and release. Overpopulated introduced brookies = breakfast.

                                1. re: alanbarnes

                                  Re: "catch and release:" Nothing like catching a one-eyed trout for the umpteenth time. Just sayin."

                                  1. re: Gio

                                    I catch & eat. We have a couple of Atlantic salmon rivers w/ short catch and release seasons. Let the poor endangered fishies alone. Was it Marth and the Vandelas that sang "Too Many Fish in the Sea"?
                                    pssst I know it wasn't.
                                    Leader of the Mat

                                    1. re: Passadumkeg

                                      You might be interested in the following article from the NYT, "How To Handle an Invasive Species? Eat It".....


                              1. re: Passadumkeg

                                I doubt that the people I used to see daily under the Verrazano Bridge had fishing licenses.

                                1. re: Caralien

                                  At present, one does not need a fishing license if fishing in salt water. I fish & crab about 20 miles from the V Narrows Bridge, In Raritan Bay, when I return to visit my mom. The same place Ive been fishing for 50+ years. Now don't get caught fishing in Mc Carter Lake w/o a license, deary.

                              2. Responding to my own thread, I avoid the basics that most people seem to: veal, foie gras/pate, chilean sea bass, shark fin soup; buy off the Monterey sea watch unless it's from WF.


                                I buy humanely certified when I can, local small farms, or by the organic rating of dairy products (just stick to the same brand):


                                But, there are definitely places I could be better, eg, when product is limited, eg. mascarpone cheese, I get where there is. I should do without.

                                5 Replies
                                1. re: chowser

                                  Do you have some evidence that the seafood at WF is necessarily and always sustainable? you imply you would buy any seafood there, but I don't think that just because they sometimes have access to sustainable sources of otherwise non-sustainable species (ie the Chilean Sea Bass), that means that you can necessarily trust the source of *all* of their seafood. (?)

                                  I did a quick look at their website and see a reference to encouraging (which is not the same as guaranteeing, of course) sustainable agriculture in their core values, but if there was some specific reference to guaranteeing that the sources of seafood are always sustainable, I didn't see it.

                                  Sorry, but I am very skeptical about WF. Of course, the fact that the only two times I have tried to purchase something from the seafood counter there was an attempt to overcharge me, (listed sale prices displayed right in the case were not in the computer and in one case they didn 't even want to honor them until I got a little huffy as I pointed at the sign!), not to mention the absolute cluelessness of their check out staff (after waiting in the express line behind three shoppers with more than the requisite number of items I was told that 'well, we want everyone to be happy, so we don't enforce the express line signs'), may be a source of my bias. But basically, I don't trust them.

                                  1. re: susancinsf

                                    This came up in a discussion on items used on Top Chef a while back. A few CHers who I trust on this were the ones who pointed it out so I looked and found what I could online and it seemed to support it. Could WF be lying? Sure, and maybe that local farm where I buy my eggs buys cheap factory farm eggs and puts them in their own containers. At some point, I'd rather trust people and maybe be taken in than to go through life suspicious of everyone. But, I think there are enough people who are skeptical of WF that if the claim weren't true, we'd hear about it. FWIW, I can't remember the last time I had anything off the warning list. But, if I had a craving for chilean sea bass, I'd go to WF. I've had problems with WF and don't wholeheartedly embrace them. I go there as a fallback.

                                    1. re: susancinsf

                                      WF has had a great deal of poor press recently.All well earned.Sloppy management
                                      and procurement as applied to fish,garlic and dairy has made the news several times this year.
                                      My WF experiences here in DC are par with yours.I know a large circle of anti-testimonial people in this area.

                                      1. re: lcool

                                        This is disappointing. I worked for them from 1992-2000, and they were quite serious about their standards at that time. Of course, their standards were much more specific at that time, as well.

                                        1. re: amyzan

                                          Also before they hit the BIG TIME.As a huge corporation they are quite regularly guilty of a "disconnect",suppliers are often three or four layers away.
                                          So how reliable they are is ???.about organic and even point of origin.