Is Eating Fish Bad for the Environment?

There is no doubting that eating fish has so many health benefits. 

It seems to be something we eat (in the UK anyway!) as either a Friday night treat or in the warmer months when the landed fish are in abundance all over our coastlines.

When we think of fish, we often envisage these massive oceans stocked to the brim with shoals of a wide variety of fish breeds. We often envisage them in situations where they are being caught by huge trawler nets and landed solely for human consumption.

Our oceans, not just surrounding the UK but all over the world, are home to the most extensive natural aquatic ecosystems on the planet. 

However, over the past couple of decades, there has been a severe case of overfishing in all of the waters territories, including “fishing for fashion” and, of course, fishing for those endangered species of fish for their specialised and high monetary value products, such as caviar.

With everything that has happened over the years in the most significant feature on our planet, we ask the biggest question of “Is eating fish bad for the environment?”.

Quite honestly, yes, eating fish can be bad for the environment at large. However, we are talking more in line with fish caught and landed using massive commercial techniques such as trawling and the associated effects, such as direct damage to the physical environment and the mass reduction in fish stocks all at once.

Is It Cruel to Eat fish?

I guess the answer to his question will be directly related to your opinion and beliefs on killing a living thing for human consumption.

If you are of the opinion that killing something that can have a life in its own environment, then yes, you will probably say that it is cruel to eat fish.

Suppose you are someone who believes that killing fish (or any other living thing!) is part of the highly diverse food chain of life, and that fish are providing a source of food for humans to be able to sustain themselves. In that case, you will probably say no, it’s not cruel to eat fish.

This argument is perfectly balanced by the different schools of thought. While one set of beliefs may view the other side as wrong and vice versa, we are entirely diplomatic to both sides and totally respect what each side believes; who are we to judge!

What is the Most Environmentally Friendly Fish to Eat?

We briefly mentioned earlier that there was this element of “Fishing for fashion,” and what we meant by that is that certain breeds of fish caught and landed for consumption in large numbers, with money as a massive feature in the background. 

This is because of their exponential demand in line with food trends, which puts pressure on the environment and their shoal numbers.

The Most Environmentally Friendly Fish to Eat

  • Handline-caught mackerel
  • Dover sole
  • Cornish hake
  • Red Gurnard

And if you follow some of the top seafood chefs in the public eye, you will see that they are sourcing and using only the most sustainable fish in their local waters, and this is important to ensure that the breeds are maintaining enough numbers to breed and sustain themselves in numbers.

It is easy to say that fish should not be caught and landed to satisfy food trends. That just seems like a colossal disturbance on the ocean ecosystem to meet food trends.

However, this is the one element that drives the food chain actions when food is consumed for anything other than essential needs.

Any sustainably caught fish is MORE environmentally friendly than anything that is trawled, and that is no surprise!

There are many sustainable ways of catching fish that have the least negative impact on the environment, and there are so many ways you can eat fish sustainably, including:

  • Line catching
  • Buying local fish
  • Buying seasonal fish
  • Favour small, independent fishermen and small businesses
  • Try something new and different away from fish food trends

What are the Health Benefits of Eating Fish?

By eating fish, we are not only enjoying some of the beautiful and unique flavours that fish offers, but we are also taking in some incredible health benefits to eating fish, including:

  • It is an excellent source of low-fat protein
  • It is full of Omega-3 fatty acids
  • It may promote brain health
  • It may assist in weight loss
  • It is a good source of calcium and iron

When we eat sustainable fish, we are actually filling our bodies with goodness, which can positively affect our overall health.

As with anything, it is imperative to have everything in moderation and with fish, 2 portions a week is plenty.

The Bottom (Fishing) Line

Eating fish can be bad for the environment when we rely on the fish that are caught using methods such as trawling, which can be detrimental to the environment and the delicate ecosystem.

However, when we can source fish sustainably, including the capture method, and make sure the varieties of fish we eat are sustainable, we can actually reap substantial health benefits from eating fish twice weekly.

The best way to ensure the fish you eat has the least environmental impact is to eat fish that is plentiful in numbers to allow further breeding (no “fashionable fish!). You can also use independent fishmongers and small businesses to source your fish and open your mind to consuming those fish that are in season and available at the correct times of the year.

Of course, eating fish is a personal preference. If you believe that eating fish is unethical, then it won’t even be a feature on your plate. Still, if you think that fish should be for human consumption, the very least you can do for the environment is open your mind to the most sustainable fish out there.

Stacy F

Stacy is a UK Based lifestyle writer who writes in the food and nutrition niches, as well as within the health and wellness sectors. She is a mum of 4 and married to a musician, so sustainability and a pinch of humour are absolutely essential to get over every one of life's obstacles!

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