There’s a handful of simple rules when dealing with fish. The most basic – if it smells bad, it ain’t good.  It may be common sense but from the malodorous smells wafting from a neighboring apartment of our Greenwich Village apartment house it’s clear that a bargain can outweigh logic even in the fishiest of situations.

Other rules on buying “fresh” fish besides using your nose: with a whole fish make sure its eyes are clear and if its a fillet make sure its smooth and shiny – pocking and dullness is a sign of age and abuse. Then there’s the issue on sustainability.

What that means is that there’s just so much fish out there for us to eat: half of what we eat in the U.S. is wild an the other half is farmed. This can be good and, this can be bad. Good because with aquaculture we

take the pressure off our wild seafood stocks and we get to eat fish. Bad because certain “farming” practices result in  inferior quality fish and seafood – think of an industrial pig farm, slop and waste included, in water.  The harmful environmental effects run the gambit from pollution, infecting native species and habitat damage.

Keeping an eye on what fishes are fishy is the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s SEAFOOD WATCH. Click through to the Pocket Guide to find “ocean-friendly” seafood. With a map of the U.S. broken down by regions and categories (“Best”, “Good Alternatives” and “Avoid”) it easy to go fishing.

Doesn’t have to be Le Bernardin, BLT Fish or Mary’s Fish Camp but it can’t be the plastic wrapper marked “SPECIAL” at the local Food Emporium either. Heck, push come to shove count me in for a good, if mercury-ridden, can of Bumble Bee tuna anytime over the malodorous fish making its way onto my neighbor’s dining table.

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