Sustainable Seafood – Give Some Love to Overlooked Fish

 Lime-Glazed Fish with Three-Pepper Tomato Sauce

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

With halibut prices hovering near $30 per pound, it’s time to revisit a topic I wrote about 6 years ago–shining a light on overlooked fish that are tasty and nutrient-rich. Today we also consider sustainability when making seafood choices, including how fish are caught, the impact on the environment and other marine organisms and whether the fishery is managed to insure a robust future population.

Originally made with cod, I updated Fish Filets with Three-Pepper Tomato Sauce, using Alaskan rockfish, another mild, extremely versatile white fish. And what a bargain – under $6.00 per pound. The rockfish filets were firm enough to put directly on the grill for summertime eating.

I looked up rockfish on the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch (SW) website. Their “recommendations help you choose seafood that’s fished or farmed in ways that have less impact on the environment.” SW says that all U.S. rockfish is ranked as a “Best Choice” or Good Alternative.” (1)

Today, half of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is farmed, and some aquaculture ventures are doing it right. (1,2) On the SW website, you can look up ratings for wild and farmed fish and shellfish from around the world, click on your state for a local guide or download their app for your phone.

I looked up cod and learned that sustainability is not simple. Pacific cod caught in Alaska is ranked a “Best Choice” while Pacific cod caught on the U.S. West Coast and in British Columbia, Canada, are “Good Alternatives,” due to environmental issues. Pacific Cod from Japan and Russia and Atlantic cod are on the “Avoid” list unless “it’s caught in the U.S. Georges Bank and U.S. Gulf of Maine with handlines and hand-operated pole-and-lines, farmed in indoor recirculating tanks or certified by the Marine Stewardship Council.” (3)

The Marine Stewardship Council is one of 6 independent eco-certification organizations recognized by SW. Their labels help shoppers identify sustainable wild fisheries and responsibly-farmed seafood (4).

Only 1 in 10 Americans eat seafood regularly (2) even though the American Heart Association and Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 recommend that American consume 2 seafood meals per week (about 8 ounces total for adults). Eating patterns that include seafood are associated with cardiovascular health, healthy body weights and other benefits. (5,6, 7)

Fatty fish like salmon get a lot of attention because they are rich in beneficial omega-3 fatty acids however all seafood is a rich source of quality protein and essential vitamins and minerals (5,6,7). Eating a wider variety fish can spread out the demand and help insure thriving seafood populations.

Seafood Watch and the eco-certification programs help us make sustainable choices. Inspiring recipes help us enjoy it more often. Here’s one I make throughout the year – oven-roasting fresh or frozen filets in cooler months and grilling in the summer.

Lime-Glazed Fish with Three-Pepper Tomato Sauce
Adjust the amount of fresh and pickled jalapeno to your taste. – fresh jalapenos range from mild to hot. See below* for summer grilling tips. To oven-roast I suggest placing the filets on a rack over a baking sheet since the fish can give off a lot of liquid. This makes a generous amount of sauce – stir any extra into beans, use in burritos, or as a topping for a Latin-style pizza.

Serves 6
2 1/2 pounds fresh cod, rockfish or other mild white fish filets

Three-Pepper Tomato Sauce:
1 tablespoons olive, avocado or canola oil
1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
½ to 1 fresh jalapeno, seeded and chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped or pressed
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 can (28-ounce) crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped, peeled roasted red bell pepper (about 1 large), drained if using peppers from a jar
1 1/2 teaspoons dried oregano leaves
1/3 cup thinly sliced pimento-stuffed green olives (Manzanilla Olives)
1 pickled jalapeno, drained, stemmed and finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
Salt, optional

Lime-Chili Glaze:
4 teaspoons lime juice
1 tablespoon olive, avocado or canola oil
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin seed
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground chipotle pepper or chili powder

Chopped cilantro, fresh oregano or thinly sliced chives (or a combination)
Sliced pimento-stuffed green olives (Manzanilla), optional

1. For Sauce, heat a large skillet on medium heat. Add oil,  onion and fresh jalapeno. Cook, stirring often, till onion is soft. Add garlic and cumin; stir for a few seconds, until fragrant. Stir in tomatoes with liquid, bell pepper and oregano. Cover and simmer very gently for 15 minutes, lowering heat as needed. Stir in olives, pickled jalapenos and lime juice. Taste and add salt, if desired. If you prefer a thicker sauce, remove cover and simmer gently to reduce. Remove from heat and keep warm. (Sauce can be prepared up to a day ahead; cool, place in a sealed container and chill. Reheat before serving.)
2. In a bowl, stir together Glaze ingredients; set aside.
3. Preheat oven to 450°F. (See * below for gilling tips.) Place a metal heat-proof rack over a large rimmed baking sheet (line sheet with foil or parchment for easy clean-up). Coat rack with nonstick spray or oil.
4. To cook fish, Place fish filets on rack. Brush with Glaze. Roast in oven for 8 to 10 minutes or until fish flakes when tested with a fork and are opaque at center.
5. To serve, spoon some of the sauce on warm platter or individual plates. Place filets on sauce. Spoon more sauce on filets. Garnish with herbs and olives, as desired. Serve with cooked rice or warm tortillas.

*To Grill Fish:
Preheat grill to medium-high to high heat. Firm filets can be placed directly on the grill to cook (#1 below). More delicate filets can be grilled in a grill basket (#2 below):
1. Brush filets with Glaze. Place filets directly on a clean, oiled grill. Cover grill and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until done as in step 4. (No need to flip filets.)
2. Line a grilling basket (At least 12-x-14-inches) with foil or parchment. Brush with oil. Place filets on foil. Brush with Glaze. Place basket on grill. Cover grill and cook for 5 to 10 minutes, until done as in step 4.

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

1. Seafood Watch
2. Dispelling Fish Tales, by Jessica Levings, MS, RDN, Today’s Dietitian, February 2018 38-41.
3. Seafood Watch – What’s New
4. Eco Certification
5. Seafood Health Facts

6. American Heart Association Scientific Advisory
7. Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2015-2020 

Copyright © Lorelle Del Matto 2018

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.


  1. This is a great article, thanks for posting! I’m looking forward to trying the recipe!

Speak Your Mind