Want to Dine Well, Save Money and Protect the Oceans? Eat Weird Fish

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Whether you're talking about nutrition or taste, fish is hard to resist. High in protein and nutrients, low in cholesterol and saturated fats, it lends itself to dozens of different cuisines and thousands of different dishes. And, while there are some dangers associated with factory-farmed seafood, eating farm-raised fish is hardly the culinary Russian roulette of consumer beef, pork or chicken. On the surface, fish seems like the perfect food for concerned consumers. Unfortunately, however, environmental issues lurk below the surface.

The biggest problem with fish is that its public relations have, arguably, been too good. A handful of well-known species -- including salmon, tuna, sea bass, and swordfish -- have captured the public attention, and its palate. Fishing fleets sail far and wide to collect these restaurant favorites; in the process, they have often overfished many of the classics, driving prices up and breeding populations down.

%VIRTUAL-article-sponsoredlinks%Many of the popular fish are predators, but things are also pretty bad on the other end of the food chain. Some less-beloved forage fish, like sardines and anchovies, are also heavily fished, either for use as high-protein animal feed, or as the base ingredient in nutritional supplements. By intensively harvesting these fish, companies diminish the bottom of the food chain, further endangering salmon, tuna, swordfish, and all the other species that are higher up the ladder.

So how can you satisfy your craving for finny friends without blowing all your money or destroying the ocean? The answer is simple: Eat weird fish. The species that you've heard of, that you grew up eating, are the same ones that are currently struggling to survive. On the other hand, there are dozens that you probably haven't heard of that are much less at risk and would taste great on your plate. Several resources, notably the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch, offer lists of sustainable fish. Monterey Bay, in fact, even offers a smartphone app that can make it easy to scan the menu for sustainable choices.

In fact, while it might be overstating to claim that your fish-eating choices can actually help the environment, there are some invasive species that are crowding out more popular choices. If you can develop a taste for swamp eel, walking catfish or rusty crawfish, you could conceivably open up a little more space for other species. In the meantime, though, here are a few of our favorite less-common fish choices:

Bruce Watson is DailyFinance's Savings Editor. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.

Originally published