By Melissa Johnson, Pura Vida Divers:
As anglers, SCUBA divers, and Florida beachgoers, we all have a stake in maintaining the health of the natural areas that bring us so much joy. By integrating sustainable fishing and seafood practices into our daily lives, we can ensure that local ecosystems thrive for generations to come.
In fact, as an angler, you are probably already choosing your seafood in an eco-friendly way. Rod-and-reel fishing is one of the most environmentally beneficial ways to source our seafood. Staying within catch limits and taking home fish to feed your family lowers our dependence on commercial fishing. Rod-and-reel catch practices facilitate natural fish stock replenishment, both inshore and on our reef systems.
Smaller, locally caught fish are also lower on the food chain than their predators, like tuna, salmon, and swordfish. Although popular on the dinner plate, larger predatory fish are more likely to accumulate toxins within their systems. Catching fish puts you in direct control over what reaches your dinner plate, ensuring you are able to make informed, healthy choices.
The relatively recent introduction of biodegradable fishing line and the prevalence of monofilament recycling stations throughout local parks and piers are further increasing the long-term sustainability of fishing. Check out the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission’s Monofilament Recycling Program website to learn more about these important stations: www.mrrp.myfwc.com.
When species seasonality, weather conditions or the day-to-day bustle limits your ability to get out on the water and catch your own seafood, there are still many ways to ensure the food on your plate was sourced using sustainable practices.
One of the easiest ways to choose sustainable seafood is to keep it local. Many restaurants and seafood markets throughout Florida feature the “Fresh from Florida” designation. This endorsement by the Florida Department of Agriculture guarantees foods and their ingredients are sourced from local suppliers and producers, including seafood caught by local fishermen. Visit www.freshfromflorida.com for a list of restaurants throughout the state that feature “Fresh from Florida” food.
When local favorites aren’t available, or if you are new to the intricacies of sourcing sustainably caught seafood, programs like the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch can provide great guidance to help you make informed choices.
Their straightforward system categorizes seafood by location and ranks them into one of three groupings: “Avoid,” “Good Alternative,” and “Best Choice.” The Seafood Watch program comprehensively evaluates each fishery, so the same species may fall into two different categories, based on how and where it was sourced.
Once you have the right tools, it is easy to choose sustainably caught seafood and improve your fishing practices. Join Pura Vida Divers in January for a fun social night and engaging presentation that will teach you the basics to sourcing seafood that’s best for your family and our planet. Visit the events page on our website at www.puravidadivers.com for details, or call us at 561-840-8750.