Megan Hall: Welcome to Possibly, where we take on huge problems like the future of our planet and break them down into small questions with unexpected answers. I’m Megan Hall. 

When you think of a plate of food, what’s normally right smack dab in the middle? A big hunk of meat? What if our first instinct was to say fish or shrimp? Would eating more seafood cut down on our greenhouse gas emissions? 

Here to look into this question are Luci Jones and Fatima Husain from our Possibly Team. Welcome, Luci and Fatima! 

Luci Jones: Hi, Megan! 

Fatima Husain: Hello! 

Megan Hall: So what’s all this fuss about seafood?

Luci Jones: To learn more, we reached out to chef, author, and self-proclaimed seafood evangelist Barton Seaver. He’s on a mission to get people everywhere to eat more seafood.

Barton Seaver: I love bluefish. You got to capture it in its pristine state. It’s got this sexy, seductive texture that melts in your mouth. And it has this wonderful sort of vibrant presence to it and pairs beautifully with basil and red wine and cheese and it’s delicious.

Megan Hall: Wow, you’re making me hungry! So why does Barton want us all to eat more seafood? 

Fatima Husain: He says compared to land animal protein, like beef, fish has some pretty substantial pluses. 

Megan Hall: Like what?

Luci Jones: Well, for one, lower greenhouse gas emissions.

Fatima Husain: It takes a lot of energy to raise animals like cows and pigs. Think about all of the greenhouse gas emissions that come from just farming the crops to feed them. 

Luci Jones: Plus, remember, when cows burp, they release methane, a powerful greenhouse gas.  

Megan Hall: I guess fish aren’t burping up emissions underwater?

Fatima Husain: Not really.  

Luci Jones: Also, all of the land we use for raising animals and growing crops to feed them doesn’t really support any other kinds of plants or animals. They’re sort of “biological deserts” with very little biodiversity. 

Megan Hall: But doesn’t fishing mess with the biodiversity of the ocean, too?

Fatima Husain: Yes, of course. But it’s nowhere near as bad as the way farming wipes out plants and animals on land. 

Megan Hall: Ok, so I’ll start eating more seafood!

Luci Jones: Not so fast. Not all seafood is created equally. For instance, fishers often drag nets on the bottom of the seafloor to catch scallops. This practice “clear cuts” the ocean floor.

Fatima Husain: And shrimp farms can also be really hard on biodiversity and create a lot of emissions, especially when people cut down mangroves to make room for them. 

Megan Hall: Ok. So, skip shrimp and scallops. But start eating more fish like salmon and cod? 

Luci Jones: Well, fish, yes, but maybe not more fish…

Fatima Husain: Although fisheries have come a long way when it comes to avoiding overfishing, there is a limit to what we can catch from the oceans, and we are close to that limit. 

Luci Jones: In other words, if we all switched out our hamburgers for salmon, we’d run out of salmon pretty quickly. 

Megan Hall: So what should we do? I always feel like I just have to revert to eating recycled paper in order not to be a bad person.

Fatima Husain: It’s not that bad. Fish is a good option, and if you’re a bit careful about which fish, you can definitely feel good about that delicious meal Barton was pitching.

Luci Jones: If you’re worried about greenhouse gas emissions, here are some simple rules: eat small fish caught in the open ocean, like anchovies and herring.

Fatima Husain: And for farmed fish, stay away from catfish, tilapia, and shrimp.

Luci Jones: But at the end of the day, eating more plant-based meals is still the best way to decrease the environmental impact of your diet.

Megan Hall: Got it! Thanks, Luci and Fatima! 

That’s it for today. For more information, or to ask a question about the way your choices affect our planet, go to the public’s radio dot org slash possibly. Or subscribe to us wherever you get your podcasts.

Possibly is a co-production of the Institute at Brown for Environment and Society, Brown’s Climate Solutions Initiative, and The Public’s Radio.

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