You know that saying “there are plenty of fish in the sea?”
Well, unless you’re giving someone cliched advice about their disastrous dating life, that statement is not true.
We are running out of fish.
According to a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ report, global fish consumption hit a record high of 37 pounds per person per year. At this rate, we’ll probably run out of fish by the time Haley’s Comet swings back around in 2061, especially with the global population growing faster than expected. We all need to find a way to make the Earth’s resources last.
Chefs all over the world knows this, and that is why there is such a push for sustainability in sourcing ingredients and ways to prepare them.
Sure. Every snobby “gourmand” would enjoy some spicy blue fin tataki, Chilean sea bass en Papillot, and wash the whole thing down with a bowl of shark fin soup, but those days will soon be gone. (Many places already banned shark finning for cruelty/ethical reasons.) So let’s do our part. Shall we?
There are many website and articles with lots of statistics and detailed studies on exactly what and where you and how should buy your seafood. We’re just gonna cut through all that and pick some sustainable and delicious stuff to eat.
First off. Eat some of the smaller and less “in-demand” fish like anchovies, mackerels, and sardines. These smaller fish are mostly forage fish that feed on plankton instead of other fish. They’re also high in Omega3 and low in stored toxins. So it’s a win-win situation. Best way to eat them? On the grill. The great thing about these fish is that they’re already packed with oil and flavor. So all you need is some salt, pepper, and lemon juice.
Another great use for anchovies is to make this super delicious dip called bagna cauda. Originated from the Piedmont region of Italy, this warm dip can be used for
anything as a spread on bread to a sauce for pasta. Simply combine butter, anchovies, garlic, and olive oil and cook it down and grind it into a paste. It is one of the most amazing and easy things you can make. I added some parsley and served it with some pappardelle and topped it with a fried egg.
Next on the list – shellfish, specifically oysters, clams, and mussels. These filter feeders are not only good to eat, they’re also good for the cleaning the water source. With oysters there are SO MANY ways to scarf down these lovely mollusks. The best is simply a squeeze of lemon and dash of hot sauce. Here’s a #protip: steaming shellfish. Instead of using white wine like many recipes suggests, use vermouth. The herbs and botanicals in vermouth adds a level of complexity to any steamed clams or mussels dish.
But avoid foreign farmed shrimps. These things are often a cause for pollution and habitat damage. Not to mention they’re often raised without strict environmental regulations. Stick with domestic shrimp that are either wild caught or raised in fully recirculating systems, just check the label or ask the fish guy.
Ok. One of the most popular fish we love is salmon. Almost every restaurant has a salmon dish. However, most of the salmon we see in the supermarket are not sustainable and could contain high levels of harmful chemicals. When shopping, try to avoid “Farmed Atlantic Salmon.” These bad boys are generally raised in open cages and their waste goes directly into the water. Also did you know it takes up to three pounds of small fish to grow one pound of salmon? Talk about NOT sustainable.
The alternative is to look for either wild caught or inland tank raised salmon from Alaska. They’re equally delicious and you can prepare them just like any salmon dish. My favorite is just keeping it simple. Hard sear with the skin side down so that it’s crispy, drizzle some rosemary infused olive oil to finish. Serve it with some pan roasted corn hash or simply on top of some salad and grapefruit.
There are a LOT of websites and information out there to wade through. The best resource is the good people at Monterey Bay Aquarium. They’ve developed a Seafood Watch program that helps both consumers and businesses make healthy choices for the environment.
From farmers to chefs to consumers, everyone would like a more sustainable way to live, to eat, to enjoy our stay on this planet without destroying it. Shopping locally, eating seasonally, and learning how to grow and preserve food are all things we can do to help ourselves in this endeavor.
Next time you’re at the market, talk to your fishmonger. Ask where the fish is from and how is it sourced. The more you know, the more you can help educate others. After all, if we don’t find a way to extend what’s in the ocean, it might not be long before we’re forced to say, “So long and thanks for all the fish!”