‘Eat wild, mostly small fish, preferably local’
Seafood is the cornerstone of the Portuguese kitchen. There are no people in Europe who eat as much seafood as the Portuguese and at the global level, only Japan and Iceland consume more fish. More than half of the fish consumed in Portugal comes from abroad.
The bigger the fish and the longer it lives, the more mercury it will accumulate, increasing the risk of neurodegenerative diseases. In addition to heavy metals, overfishing is a cause of great concern.
Most tuna (atum) species are severely over-fished and all tuna species contain mercury. Albacore tuna is the best alternative choice.
Scabbardfish (peixe espada) with its long life cycle, slow growth, and low productive rate inhabit the deep waters off mainland Portugal, Madeira, and the Azores. They contain high levels of mercury. Best alternatives are Sea bream (Sargo or Dourada).
Octopus (polvo) is with its 500.000 neurons probably the most intelligent spineless creature in the sea. Skin color depends on their habitat and mood. They feed on crustaceans, particularly crabs. Some might contain mercury. Alternatives are Cuttlefish or Squid.
Cod (bacalhau) – industrially caught in the cold waters of the Baltic and Northern Atlantic – is the nation’s favorite dish. Their status is vulnerable through overfishing. Alternatives are Seabream or Dourada.
Although sardines (sardinhas) are synonymous with Portugal, the fish is not as plentiful as it might seem. In recent years the fishery has completely collapsed through overfishing. The best alternative is Mackerel.
Shrimp (camarão) are caught on industrial ships to an unsustainable scale bringing populations to the brink of collapse. Over 80% of the giant Mozambique shrimp are exported to the EU – mainly to Spain and Portugal – causing vast ecological destruction in the Indian ocean. The best alternative is Clams.
Razor clams (lingueirão) are in sharp decline by trawlers that rake the sands mechanically to the extent that they all have been whipped out locally. Best alternative is Percebes.
Sea bream (sargo) – the king of the Alentejo coast – is usually line-caught and currently not in decline. They have strong teeth to feed upon mollusks.
Golden sea bream (dourada) tends to be relatively resistant to overfishing but is usually produced by aquaculture in the Mediterranean sea in large tanks with negative environmental impacts (i.e. seawater pollution through antibiotics and chemicals).
Mackerel (cavala) is a great alternative to sardines. Full of healthy omega-3 fatty acids and low in cholesterol. They have a healthy future population predicted.
Brown crab (sapateira) is imported to Portugal from waters surrounding the UK, Ireland, and northwestern France.
Clams (amêijoas) – found in the Atlantic and the Azores – feed on micro-algae. They are the main bivalve species produced through aquaculture in Portugal.
Goose-neck barnacles (percebes) are strange-looking creatures living on intertidal rocks off the Algarve, where they are hand-picked by divers. It is forbidden to capture them from October to April.
Oysters (ostra) are largely produced by aquaculture along the Portuguese coast. They are great for the local ecosystem as they are filter-feeders cleaning the water.
Cuttlefish (choco) has 8 arms and 2 tentacles like squid but have an internal skeletal structure, the cuttlebone. The catch method, by trap or hook and line, is a very low impact fishing method but they are also caught as by-catch.
Squid (lula) supply has been increasing in recent years possibly as a result of the declining fish populations and ecosystem changes.
Stay healthy Fique saudável (pic Kate Findlay-Shirras)