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Jul 9, 2019 10:08 AMPublication: The East Hampton Press & The Southampton Press

Seafood Is Good For You--With Some Considerations

Jul 9, 2019 10:28 AM

A quick refresher this week on eating our local seafood, since there is an abundance of local seafood to be eaten these days.We’ve all been told that eating more fish is a healthier diet than one heavy on red meats and high-fat foods. It is true—fish, pretty much across the board, are vastly lower in fat, nitrates and cholesterol than many meats are, and if you aren’t buying boxed, frozen fish sticks, they basically are never processed or mixed with any artificial ingredients.

But not all fish are created equal when it comes to health benefits, and some fish species—including striped bass, tuna, swordfish, salmon and bluefish—do carry considerable concerns when it comes to eating them on a very regular basis.

First of all, New York State says that nobody should ever eat fish caught from freshwaters anywhere on Long Island. That’s largemouth bass, sunfish or bluegills, mainly. The island’s ponds are all thought to be too polluted to be safe for consumption.

But even in the open sea there can be problems. Most concerning are the levels of contaminants, primarily mercury and PCBs, that can build up in some of the fish species that swim by our shores and wind up in our refrigerators and freezers.

Both mercury and PCBs are of particular concern because of the negative effects they have been shown to have on development in unborn and very young children, leading to special dietary restriction warnings, when it comes to consuming seafood, for women who are pregnant or may become pregnant.

Fish that are relatively high in fat, like bluefish, salmon and tuna, or grow to very large sizes, like mako sharks and swordfish, accumulate heightened levels of both of these contaminants in their flesh, over time.

New York State specifically recommends that women of childbearing age not consume three common local species—striped bass, bluefish and weakfish—more than once a month, cumulatively. That is to say, they should not eat more than 12 meals in a year of these species.

The FDA has other general advisories for pelagic fish species, like tuna, tilefish and mahi mahi, recommending that they be eaten no more than once a week, and generally recommending that diners entirely avoid the consumption of large tuna like bigeye and bluefin, swordfish, and mako shark.

The good news for local fishermen who work hard to eat a lot of fish that they catch themselves—like me—is that, here in the Northeast we have access to a number of species that carry basically no negative health concerns at all. These are species that mostly live on the bottom of the ocean, away from enclosed harbors, and do not grow to very large sizes.

Fluke, flounder, cod, porgies, black sea bass, blackfish, triggerfish and most of the other random species we will pull off the local sea floor are completely free of major contaminants and bring all the benefits of eating fish—along with being delicious and generally abundant.

So, with these considerations in mind: Catch ’em up. And eat ’em up!

See you out there!

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