Sustainable shellfish a good fit for Lent


By Deborah Pankey
Updated 3/8/2011 12:36 PM

When you're not a big fan of fish, shrimp makes a good introduction to foods from the sea.

Its sweet, mild flavor has broad appeal, even for those who don't like other seafood varieties.


Its availability in a number of forms -- fresh or frozen, tiny to jumbo -- and its ability to cook quickly make it a very cook-friendly ingredient. And it turns out most varieties of shrimp (also referred to as prawns) also are some of the most sustainable seafood varieties available. So, yes, there's a lot to love about these little shrimp.

According to Seafood Watch, a program that monitors shellfish and seafood worldwide in an effort to educate consumers about fish populations and fishing's impact on the environment, freshwater prawns (marketed as Giant River or Malaysian prawns) farmed in the U.S. are a "best choice."

"Best choice" means the shrimp are abundant, well-managed and fished/farmed in environmentally friendly ways.

Farmed West Coast white shrimp and Pacific white shrimp, as well as wild-caught pink shrimp (sold as bay, cocktail, ocean, salad and ebi, or sushi, shrimp) taken waters off Oregon, also fall in the "best choice" category.

"Good alternatives," those varieties where there is some concern about overfishing and environmental issues, include wild-caught rock, pink, brown and white shrimp from the U.S. Gulf of Mexico and South Atlantic regions and farmed varieties from Thailand.

by signing up you agree to our terms of service

Those to avoid include Pacific and West Coast white shrimp from Mexico as well as imported white shrimp, black tiger shrimp, tiger prawns and ebi. (For a full guide to sustainable seafood, download a Right Bite Seafood Wallet Card at When buying fresh, raw shrimp, they should "smell of the sea with no hint of ammonia" says "The Food Lover's Companion." Rinse them in cold water when you get home and refrigerate them up to two days.

Cooked, shelled shrimp should appear plump and succulent and should be used within three days or frozen for up to three months.

As the Lenten season gets under way, there are many opportunities to work shrimp into your menu; here are just a few.