How to choose fish: seasonality and “sustainable” species

Tips for choosing which fish to eat

Maintaining a healthy and balanced diet based on the principles of the Mediterranean diet entails eating fish, preferably oily fish, about three times a week. However, we need to be aware of what species of fish to eat because not all of them are the same.

THE ORIGIN OF FISH: WILD OR FARMED?

Today, most of the fish we buy from fishmonger’s shops comes from farms where the diet of fish, or what we might call their “lifestyle”, is very different to that of fish that are born, grow and live in the sea. These factors lead to substantial differences in terms of nutritional properties and characteristics. Moreover, many fish farms are managed in a way that is harmful to the environment and marine life, unless we opt for the ones that farm clams, mussels, oysters or other organic products.

WHICH SPECIES OF FISH TO CHOOSE SO AS NOT TO HARM THE ENVIRONMENT

Some of the most purchased and consumed species of fish are those that have the greatest negative impact on the environment and are the most vulnerable and at risk of extinction, such as salmon, bluefin tuna and swordfish, cod, grouper, dentex and smooth-hound.

In contrast, some species can be considered “sustainable”, just as good and price controlled. These are: dolphinfish, little tunny, needlefish, mackerel, Atlantic bonito, sardines, mullet, saddled seabream, greater amberjack, sea bass and gilt-head bream.

Another useful tip is to respect the minimum size limit, meaning you should avoid buying fish caught too young, and therefore small in size, which is invaluable for the ecological balance of species.

CHOOSING FISH ACCORDING TO SEASON

Fish have their own seasonality too, which depends on the breeding cycle. This is precisely why it is so important to respect their lifecycle, choosing species from the seas closest to us, such as fish caught in the Mediterranean.

Knowing the “seasons” of each type of fish, which you can find below, will help you not only to respect the environment, but also to cook great pasta dishes or main courses in a sustainable way:

All year round: mullet, sand steenbras, hake, saddled seabream, common pandora, angler, brill, John Dory, silver scabbardfish, scorpionfish, mackerel, horse mackerel, curled picarel;

Spring: anchovy, tub gurnard, leerfish, Atlantic bonito, seabream, sea bass;

Summer: needlefish, anchovy, tub gurnard, dolphinfish, gilt-head bream, Atlantic pomfret, bluefish, greater amberjack, seabream, sardine, sole, sea bass;

Autumn: albacore, anchovy, sea bass, goatfish, turbot, greater amberjack, tub gurnard, dolphinfish, seabream;

Winter: common pandora, Atlantic bonito, octopus, turbot, sardine, cuttlefish, goatfish, cross-cut carpet shell.

If you choose to buy fish that is not caught in the Mediterranean, you should make sure it is MSC or ASC certified, which is a guarantee of sustainable fishing.

Now try cooking the delicious fish recipes created by our chef Luca Zanga.

Mezze maniche on a chickpeas cream with rosemary and monkfish

Spaghetti with bass and green pesto

LUCA ZANGA

The Mediterranean Diet recommends eating fish at least three times a week. This should serve as a starting point for learning how to choose the most sustainable species, avoiding the ones that are now threatened with extinction.

Moreover, a greater variety is an advantage not only in terms of well-being, but also in terms of flavour.
 

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