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Shellfish and Sustainability: What You Should Know

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Shellfish such as salad prawns and king scallops are quickly emerging as the sustainability rock stars of the seafood industry in the UK, prized for their ease of farming and low environmental impact. Research indicates that shellfish are easily the most sustainable type of seafood — in other words, the time may have finally come to celebrate shellfish.

Shellfish are highly nutritious.

Shellfish and molluscs are very high in nutrients and have a higher protein content than many types of meats and plant crops relative to their body weight. They are also rich in essential omega-3 fatty acids and micronutrients like iron, zinc and magnesium. This nutritional richness is one of the reasons why some experts believe that shellfish may hold the key to resolving the world’s numerous food problems.

Shellfish have a low environmental impact.

Beyond being a rich source of essential nutrients, shellfish farming also offers significant environmental benefits.

According to David Willer, a zoologist at the University of Cambridge, shellfish and molluscs have the extraordinary potential to provide people with food that is ecologically sustainable and packed with nutrients. And a 2017 article in the Solutions Journal says that shellfish and molluscs are not only the most environmentally sustainable aquatic animal species groups — they are also the best alternative for meat lovers.

These claims are premised on the fact that shellfish and molluscs can be harvested responsibly in the wild and actively farmed offshore. These processes also have a fraction of the ecological impact of traditional protein sources like chicken, pork, and beef. To put it into perspective, beef production generates up to 20 times the greenhouse gas emissions produced by shellfish harvesting and farming.

Additionally, shellfish and molluscs alleviate worries about farm sustainability and animal welfare. For one thing, farm-raised shellfish consume less energy since the water in pens does not need to be circulated. As filter feeders, shellfish and molluscs obtain their sustenance directly from the water, saving the expense and energy of sourcing and using the feed.

Shellfish harvesting and farming improve the health of marine ecosystems.

Not only are shellfish and molluscs a sustainable food source, but their harvesting and farming also support marine ecosystem balance in the following ways:

  • Sediment quality: Harvesting shellfish from underwater surfaces loosens and disperses silt and sand, thereby improving the sediment quality. This process also allows oxygen to reach the seabed, promoting the growth of aquatic plants and animals. Additionally, shellfish beds aid in sediment stabilisation, preventing coastal erosion.
  • Water quality and clarity: Shellfish also contribute to water quality by filtering saltwater as part of their feeding behaviour. Adult oysters, for example, filter up to 50 gallons of water each day as they feed on algae and food particles. This filter-feeding process significantly improves water quality by removing organic matter, bacteria, viruses, and extra particulates from the water column. This ultimately promotes the growth of underwater plants, thus increasing the amount of oxygen available to marine animals.
  • Algal bloom prevention: Shellfish can be critical in preventing harmful algae blooms such as “red tides” by absorbing nitrogen and algal particles before they reach toxic levels.
  • Marine ecosystem support: Shellfish beds contribute to the health of aquatic ecosystems by providing food and habitat for other aquatic animals such as worms, crabs, and young fish.

Shellfish represents the seafood industry’s future.

With rising awareness of the importance of sustainable food sources, shellfish and molluscs are emerging as the most promising options. Shellfish, whether farmed or wild-caught, have the lowest environmental impact. They are also very delicious, with a somewhat sweet and salty flavour.

Buy Fresh Seafood Online

If you are looking for fresh seafood home delivery in Grimsby, Seafood Direct is the company to call. Click here to browse our fine selection of mouth-watering fresh shellfish and molluscs! If you have questions about our product ranges or need a custom seafood box created for a special occasion, please call us at 01472 566000 or write to us at 

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