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Eat more (for your health), but choose wisely (for the ocean's sake): A guide to five species, with recipes.
The next time you stare perplexed at your local seafood counter wondering what is good and sustainable, keep this in mind: I have the same problem.
Even after a decade of reporting on seafood, I find sustainable seafood choices are often tricky and usually influenced by regional, seasonal, and even political conditions that take some homework to fully understand. Black-and-white choices are rare. But increasingly, there are better shades of gray. Recently, I decided to talk over some of these gray areas with Barton Seaver, a Washington, D.C.—based chef who has been cooking through sustainability issues for his new book, For Cod and Country. Of course, we could have talked about a thousand species, but we decided to focus on archetypal American seafood items. Here is a distillation of what we concluded.
Eating healthy should still be delicious.
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SHRIMP: No better example of seafood's troublesome gray area exists than shrimp. Catching wild shrimp often requires trawling gear that kills juvenile fish, sea turtles, and sea horses. Carelessly farmed shrimp can be tainted with antibiotics and destroy mangrove forests in sensitive tropical coastal zones. But good choices exist in each category. The Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Blue Ocean Institute have identified several American and Canadian wild shrimp fisheries as "best choices" either because of low-bycatch fishing gear—like the traps used to catch West Coast spot prawns—or because they are caught in a region where the ocean bottom is less susceptible to trawl impacts, as with the Northern Shrimp in Canada. "By buying wild-caught shrimp from fisheries that have employed these better methods, we're in fact subsidizing better management," Barton says. He also points out that several shrimp-farming companies have emerged that grow shrimp in closed-containment facilities and spare the mangroves. One standard for sustainable shrimp is set by the Marine Stewardship Council—look for the Council's blue-and-white check mark on packaging. To date the Council has certified one U.S. fishery—wild Oregon pink shrimp—and three varieties of Canadian shrimp.
On the farmed-shrimp front, Whole Foods and Wegman's are particularly good at identifying farms with best practices. As a default choice, stick with U.S. or Canadian shrimp.
STRIPED BASS, FARMED OR WILD: Surprisingly, finding a basic piece of white fish turns out to be one of the harder things to do nowadays. Cod, haddock, red snapper—all have had their problems. Striped bass, another classic white-fleshed fish, suffered an enormous population collapse in the 1980s as a result of overfishing and habitat pollution. But wild striped bass have come roaring back thanks to good management. By 1995, the National Marine Fisheries Service had declared the fish "fully rebuilt." Size limits, as well as low-impact hook-and-line and gill nets practices, have kept them that way. That said, recent unlawful poaching has caused sport fishermen to wage a campaign to have the fish recategorized as a sport fish—only animal. And wild "stripers" carry a PCB risk. If all that turns you off, then farmed striped bass are a good alternative. Grown in systems that limit the negative effects caused by runoff, farmed striped bass are a functionally sterile hybrid of striped bass and white bass, and can't easily interbreed with wild populations. In the kitchen, Barton favors a "hard sear" on the farmed version to bring out the fish's slightly muted flavors, whereas "low and slow" heat applied to the wild allows the flesh to baste in its own juices.
WILD AMERICAN LOBSTER: Whereas many fish and some wild shrimp are trawled in nets that pull in all kinds of things, lobsters are caught in traps or "pots" that don't disturb the seafloor and tend to only catch, well, lobsters. Mandated escape hatches mean that unwanted creatures can sneak out the back door, and a very carefully regulated management scheme has kept populations in decent shape. Should each of us then have license to scarf down an entire lobster every time we sit down to a seafood dinner? "If that lobster hadn't been caught by a human, it would have been somebody else's dinner," Barton points out. Because we must share lobsters with several species that also love to eat lobster, perhaps it's more appropriate to share a single lobster among several friends as the accompanying recipe suggests.
FARMED ARCTIC CHAR: Arctic char is a newcomer to aquaculture that's fairly closely related to salmon (they share the same taxonomic family, Salmonidae). Like salmon, char has a nice orange color and is high in omega-3s. But unlike farmed salmon, arctic char are not farmed in the open sea, do not cause the spread of sea lice to the wild, and do not escape and dilute the genetics of wild populations. "A lot of chefs call it salmon light," Barton notes. "It's got a mellower flavor than farmed salmon and not quite as much fat oozing out. I think it actually eats better."
FRESH OR FROZEN U.S.-CAUGHT PACIFIC ALBACORE TUNA: Two questions govern any wild fish's sustainability: (1) How many are there? and (2) How many should we catch?
With tuna it takes a lot of work to determine answers to these fundamental questions. Tuna are extremely migratory, sometimes traveling thousands of miles in their lifetimes. To know how many we can catch, we must gather fishing data from dozens of nations. Nevertheless, tuna is the most consumed finfish in America—with fish coming from all over the world. In looking through the different options, there seems to be consensus among ocean advocacy organizations that U.S.-caught Pacific Ocean albacore is a reasonable choice. Assessments indicate they are abundant. They are shorter-lived, quick to reproduce, and hence a little more resistant to fishing pressure than the larger bigeye and bluefin tunas. Ocean conservation organizations further stress selecting pole- or troll-caught albacore since the more industrial fishing methods like purse seining and long-lining can result in the bycatch of turtles, sharks, and billfish. But (and here's that darn seafood gray area again) as Gavin Gibbons at the National Fisheries Institute, a seafood industry advocacy organization, rightly points out, the purse seining and long-lining sectors have improved their bycatch numbers in recent years, and pole-catching tuna can lead to considerable bycatch of juvenile tuna. If you would like to sidestep the tuna question entirely, both Barton and I recommend trying U.S.-caught Spanish mackerel as a replacement.
It's true, by the way, that better-farmed and better-caught fish and shellfish cost a bit more. But in an era when we're starting to understand the ocean's limitations, no one should feel self-conscious about serving or accepting smaller portions. The more care we show enjoying the sea's resources, the more the sea will continue to reward us with its bounty.
A guide to sustainable fish: what choices are there and how to cook it
There are many reasons to eat fish – it's delicious, versatile and has a range of health benefits. But with so many varieties available, and all the different ways in which it can be caught, it can be difficult to know if what you’re eating is having a damaging effect on marine environments.
Michelin-trained chef Tim Slack opened the Hook Fisheries in 2020 - Credit: The Hook Fisheries
Award-winning, Michelin-trained chef Tim Slack, founder of the Hook Fisheries in Drighlington, sheds some light on how to choose more sustainable seafood.
Q: What fish can I eat sustainably?
When it comes to choosing sustainable fish, it’s important to know if it has been sourced in an environmentally-friendly way. Find out as much as possible about what you’re buying – look out for information on labels or ask your fishmonger where it came from and how it was caught or farmed.
At the Hook Fisheries, our British fish is tracked through the docks and trawlers and we have specific regulations in place to make sure it’s fresh and ethically caught. It's also a good idea to choose a wider range of seafood to avoid putting pressure on fisheries and to protect dwindling species.
Q: Where should I get my fish from?
Specialist fishmongers have a more varied choice of fresh fish compared to supermarkets - Credit: The Hook Fisheries
Buying from a specialist fishmonger is the best way to ensure what you’re getting is sustainable as they tend to know about the provenance and traceability of the produce. Shopping local also means a smaller carbon footprint and a more diverse choice. The selection is often in season and much fresher than what you get in the supermarkets – buying quality over quantity should always be a priority.
Q: Is eating fish healthy?
How to Make Sustainable Seafood Choices at the Fish Market
The seafood we eat has an enormous impact on our health today and the health of our oceans tomorrow.
The seafood we eat has an enormous impact on our health today and the health of our oceans tomorrow.
The weekend after Thanksgiving, I steer my boat, First Light, out of the harbor knowing this will be my last fishing trip of the year. It&aposs become a tradition. What my partner, Patricia, and I seek will provide reason enough to give abundant thanks.
Off the very tip of Long Island, migrating ducks and loons enliven the sea&aposs wintery surface. Already a few seals from the north are appearing. Gannets on long wings have come from coastal Canada following the same prey that we are after today, and we watch the birds carefully. When I see them raining into the sea like white missiles, I turn the wheel toward them.
They&aposre all here for the same reason I am: the strong currents keep this place awash in plankton, enriching the whole food chain, concentrating wildlife of all kinds.
As soon as I drop a line, I will become part of this complex web of interdependence-that&aposs what I most love about being here.
Today, though, the fish we pursue are different from what you might expect or what I would have sought several years ago. (Click here to find 6 super green fish to serve.) I&aposve fished these waters since I was a teenager in the 1970s, and I&aposve seen the ocean change. The big offshore fish-the swordfish and sharks I once thrilled to see, catch and eat-are now so scarce I just don&apost feel good about hooking them anymore. (Click here to find 6 fish to avoid.) U.S. fishermen now often catch less than 20 percent of the bluefin tuna they&aposre allowed because they can&apost find enough to fill their quotas. Hammerhead sharks-common when I started fishing offshore in the 1980s-are down about 90 percent and other shark populations are severely depleted too.
The dominoes often fall in unpredictable ways, upsetting the natural balance. As sharks off the East Coast have been fished down to low levels, the stingrays they used to eat have proliferated. So much so that the rays now demolish shellfish beds, putting some clammers out of business.
In the North Atlantic, commercially important fish like cod and halibut declined by two-thirds between 1950 and 2000. Atlantic cod had been a source of riches for 500 years, but in the early 1990s Canada&aposs cod fishery "collapsed" (declined more than 90 percent) due to overfishing, bringing long-term devastation to communities up and down the seaboard.
In 2006, an international team of scientists analyzing global fisheries data wrote in Science magazine, "Accelerating loss of populations and species. is increasingly impairing the ocean&aposs capacity to provide food, maintain water quality, and recover." They found that since 1950 about a third of all fished species worldwide have collapsed. They also noted that, at current rates, the rest would collapse by 2050.
Of all the things that are changing the ocean-including pollution, climate change and coastal development-fishing has brought the most profound change so far.
I&aposve often said fishing is the last buffalo hunt-the last wild food we hunt and consume en masse. And it&aposs worth recalling the cautionary tale of North America&aposs most abundant bird, the passenger pigeon. In 1810, the pioneering ornithologist Alexander Wilson estimated one "almost inconceivable multitude" of pigeons as being roughly 240 miles long, containing 2.2 billion birds. After a century of being hunted for food, the last passenger pigeon on Earth died in the Cincinnati Zoo in 1914.
Though "there are plenty of fish in the sea"-or were-abundance doesn&apost make them immune from overexploitation. But the same researchers who warned of a total fisheries collapse before 2050 added that "at this point, these trends are still reversible," if we improve management and declare ample no-fishing zones where fish can reproduce. (Click here to find 6 fish to serve.) The buffalo herds are gone and the passenger pigeon has passed-but there remains hope for the ocean.
This may take a sea change in how we eat. Last fall, more than two dozen top chefs, including Alton Brown, Rick Bayless, John Ash and Barton Seaver, pledged not to serve any fish on Seafood Watch&aposs red "avoid" list. That means no more farmed salmon. Goodbye to Chilean sea bass and red snapper. Orange roughy and monkfish are also off their menus. Walmart, which currently spends $259 billion on sustainably sourced seafood, has pledged that it will purchase all wild-caught fish for the U.S. market from Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)-certified fisheries by 2011. It will also work with Global Aquaculture Alliance and Aquaculture Certification Council, Inc. to certify that all foreign shrimp suppliers adhere to Best Aquaculture Practices standards in the U.S. Gradually, food-service giants, such as Sysco, Compass Group and Aramark, are making the shift too.
It has before. In the late 1990s, when Atlantic swordfish reached an all-time low, environmental groups and high-profile chefs began working together to promote a ban on eating swordfish. They reduced demand enough to soften the price and bring commercial fishing groups to the bargaining table. Environmental groups also won a lawsuit to close fishing areas where juvenile swordfish congregate. Consequently, swordfish numbers are about 150 percent of what they were in the mid-1990s. The population is rebounding and may soon be sustainable again.
Around that same time, a conservation magazine asked me to create a list that evaluated popular seafood from most sustainable to least. Before that, a piece of fish was simply a piece of fish. You didn&apost think about it, you just ate it, like a piece of bread. Today that database has grown and spawned various regional sub-lists, making it easier for consumers to make the right choices.
And America&aposs fisheries have gotten better, realizing that their own future livelihood is at stake. Though they still have problems, they also have some of the better management rules in the world. U.S. fisheries must now be evaluated biannually, and since 2006 federal fishery managers have been required to establish annual catch limits that allow depleted populations to begin rebuilding. Better yet, they&aposre required to end all overfishing in U.S. waters this year. Alaska, the state with the highest seafood landings, has perhaps the best-managed fisheries in the world, with tight quotas, strict environmental regulations and close monitoring so that fisheries are closed before they exceed critical limits.
The Simplest, Healthiest Solution
When people ask me now what fish to eat, I pause. The answers can seem confusing: Atlantic cod is not sustainable but Pacific is. Alaskan salmon is fine. Most farmed salmon-even organic-is not, as many salmon farms are infecting and threatening the wild species. Most domestic shrimp is farmed sustainably or caught in ways that limit by-catch of fish and sea turtles. Much of the shrimp from overseas is not.
So my new rule of thumb is very, very simple: if a whole fish is small enough to fit on your dinner plate, it&aposs probably a good choice for both the environment and your own health.
Here&aposs why: smaller fish that are lower on the food chain tend to be abundant, fast-reproducing and more resilient to fishing pressure. Bigger fish usually live longer, taking years to mature and begin breeding. Because they&aposre near the apex of the food pyramid, there are fewer of them to begin with. So they&aposre much more vulnerable to overfishing and easily depleted. And slow-growing, long-lived, late-maturing fish like sharks and big tunas can&apost just bounce back. Rebuilding will take time. And so far, we&aposre not giving them much of a chance.
Consequently, though I used to love grilled mako steaks, I won&apost kill sharks anymore it&aposs not good for them, and just as important, eating them is not good for me. Simply put, big, older fish accumulate more mercury than small and younger ones.
Most of the mercury people acquire gets into the environment from burning coal, but we usually get it into our bodies through eating seafood. Most animals we eat are killed when they are young (six weeks for a chicken) and have not accumulated that much mercury. By contrast, the large bluefin tuna we catch are 10 years old. Contaminants like mercury, pesticides, PCBs and other metals and toxic chemicals aren&apost just passed along in the food chain they accumulate and concentrate toward the top. Think of the ocean food chain as a simple pyramid, with, say, a shark at the top, a large number of herring in the middle and a vast horde of planktonic plants and animals at the base. (In real life, it&aposs more complicated, of course, with more steps.) The plant plankton absorb minute quantities of contaminants as they turn nonliving components of seawater into living cells. Think of the total of all the contaminants in all the plankton along the pyramid&aposs base, and imagine it all concentrating into fewer herring and ultimately in the one big old shark. Basically, that&aposs what happens.
The higher on the pyramid you eat, the more likely you&aposll be getting a larger portion of concentrated contaminants. Dining on plankton-eating herring is better than eating the shark that ate all those herring. Herring, anchovies, Atlantic mackerel, clams and oysters (small plankton-eaters) have among the lowest mercury concentrations sharks and tunas (big fish-eaters) have among the highest. And even with farmed fish, smaller is better. Big, carnivorous fish must be fed smaller fish that have been caught in the ocean. Many of those nutrient-rich smaller fish that are turned into fishmeal-like herring and sardines-are healthy for people and would be better used as human food. (Is your fish toxic? Find out here.)
But what if everyone ate herring and sardines wouldn&apost that further skew the foodweb? You&aposd think so, but not if we were to eat these nutrient-rich fish in place of some of the meats we currently consume. Consider this: right now, about a third of the world catch of those fish is fed to farmed fish, pigs and chickens. This is a great waste of potential human food, because up to five pounds of fish-edible, nutritious, delicious wild fish-must be fed to the farmed livestock in order to produce one pound of meat.
So, farmed freshwater fish that can be fed a vegetable-based diet, like tilapia or catfish, are better choices than large carnivorous fish. Better yet are farmed clams, oysters and mussels, which require no feeding and actually filter the waters around them (that&aposs how they eat), helping improve water quality and helping prevent plankton from overproducing and then crashing, which can devastate oxygen availability and kill many other creatures.
By the time I reach the diving birds, the sonar shows dots representing schools of fish near the bottom in 50 feet of water. Patricia and I have two fishing rods, each rigged with a row of six tiny lures the length of my thumbnail. Here in the same ocean where I&aposve decked big tuna and battled bruising sharks and fought 40-pound striped bass, this is decidedly-and deliciously-small game fishing.
Our sinkers mail the rigs to the bottom. I feel a bump and my rod tip dips, dips more, then more. Pat&aposs already reeling up. And we&aposve struck silver, all right. Into view come the wiggling, shimmering shapes we&aposre looking for. I lift six herring, each about 10 inches long, over the side and into the cooler. Patricia has four herring and two mackerel about the same size. At this rate, it doesn&apost take long to get about five dozen before we hang up our rigs and head for the dock.
We&aposll smoke some of these, cook some up fresh, and fillet and pickle most of them. They&aposll show up on our dinner table and as snacks and in gift jars. For weeks they&aposll give us good food and a good story.
Marine biologist Carl Safina is the founder of the Blue Ocean Institute, author of Song for the Blue Ocean, and winner of the Pew Fellowship in Marine Conservation Award, the MacArthur Fellowship and the Lannan Literary Award. He won a 2011 James Beard Award for this story published in EatingWell Magazine.
5 Ways to Make Sustainable, Non-Local Seafood Choices
“Buy local.” This sustainability refrain has become so common it’s now part of our vernacular—and with good reason. Buying local tends to strengthen local economies and minimize pollution by cutting out transporting food over long distances.
But, where fish and seafood are concerned, buying local is often not always the most sustainable choice.
Sourcing the right fish and seafood is a task that requires research and critical thinking. As a seafood eater, in order to buy local—sustainably—you have to know which fish species are being caught with the correct gear and no bycatch, which is not always possible. So here are five ways to supplement your diet with non-local, sustainable seafood choices:
As you probably know by now, I’m a huge advocate of tinned and canned fish. I promote stocking up on it in your Sea Pantry for several reasons. In addition to being a great (and easy) source of protein, omega-3s, and calcium, tinned and canned fish don’t have to be refrigerated, which means they take less energy to keep. And, because they’re usually individually portioned, you are much less likely to produce food waste when consuming them.
Since tinned and canned fish can come from all over the globe, be sure the fish you are eating is traceable. If the fish is certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), you can be sure it was wild-caught to the highest sustainability standards. If certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, it’s been sourced from the most environmentally responsible farms in the world!
2. Frequent shops and restaurants that support sustainably reared or caught fish and seafood.
How can you tell if a shop or restaurant supports sustainable seafood farming and fishing practices? Usually, they’ll tell you! Businesses making sustainability commitments will often forward-face them on in-store signage and in their marketing materials. Often, they’ll call out certifications on product labels or make specific recommendations in menus. But if you don’t see these telltale signs, you can always call a business and ask about sourcing before your visit. Even if their answer disappoints you, the call won’t be wasted—the more businesses are questioned about their commitments, the more likely they are to start making changes.
Still not sure where to start? You can look through the businesses and chefs that have collaborated with Seafood Watch to make ocean-friendly seafood choices and do your part to help improve the industry!
3. Research and support farmers who meet high standards for sustainably raising seafood.
If you’re a little bit of a nerd like me, you can do some basic internet sleuthing to discover and support farmers who have high sustainability standards for raising seafood. One of the best is Kvaroy Arctic, a Norwegian salmon farm maintaining a level of sustainability practice that goes beyond official standards and producing truly delicious fish along the way.
Once you find your favorite farmers, the best thing you can do is consistently support them. You can do this by purchasing their product, educating yourself on what they do and why they do it, and by sharing your knowledge with others, whether in-person or on social media. We need more sustainable seafood champions out there spreading facts and engaging in respectful dialogue about aquaculture!
Photo by Eric Wolfinger
4. Support U.S.-reared or harvested fish.
The Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act is one of the most important pieces of legislation protecting wild stocks of fish and seafood in U.S. waters. Its goal is to conserve and sustain U.S. marine fisheries while supporting the people and communities that rely upon them.
Under Magnuson-Stevens, the NOAA Office of Sustainable Fisheries has kept up the Fish Stock Sustainability Index, a quarterly report measuring the performance of U.S. fisheries since 2005. The index score increases when a stock’s status improves (i.e., the stock is no longer overfished and the size of the stock has hit at least 80% of its target). As of 2020, the index shows that Magnuson-Stevens is working and we are continuing to make progress on protecting wild stocks of fish in the U.S. That’s good news because, chances are, if you’re sourcing wild-caught fish from U.S. waters, it will be sustainably reared and harvested.
Though sustainable aquaculture is a smaller piece of the pie in this country (the U.S. only ranks 17th in aquaculture production worldwide, according to NOAA Fisheries), progress is being made on this front as well. Small farms with a commitment toward sustainability are not only producing high-quality seafood, but restoring native species to depleted areas. When possible, be sure to support these farms as well, even if the source isn’t technically local to you.
Photo courtesy of Wildfish Cannery
5. Buy frozen.
If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it 1,000 times: frozen is the new fresh. Buying frozen fish means you not only waste less, you also lower your carbon footprint. Flying fresh fish is much more damaging to the environment because it has to be air-freighted. Container shipping, on the other hand, is one of the most efficient and sustainable ways to transport food, and frozen fish can be container shipped. Additionally, because flying fresh fish is extremely expensive, by supporting best-in-class frozen programs, you’ll get a more sustainable and more budget-friendly meal.
I hope I’ve helped debunk the myth of “buying local” when it comes to fish and seafood. As is usually the case, the reality of the sustainable seafood industry is much more nuanced than people tend to portray it. Empower yourself to do your own research and make educated choices about where to source your fish. I’ll be here to help along the way!
Photo by Eric Wolfinger
The Tinned Fish Cookbook
- Author : Bart van Olphen
- Publisher : The Experiment
- Release Date : 2020-04-01
- Genre: Cooking
- Pages : 144
- ISBN 10 : 9781615196753
“Bart van Olphen elevates canned tuna to the heights of deliciousness.”—The New York Times Scrumptious recipes for tuna, mackerel, herring, and more—so tasty, you won't believe it's from a can! Quick: What ingredient is delicious, sustainable, easy to store, and adds protein and healthy fats to any dish? Why, it’s tinned fish, of course! Whether you’re a seafood lover or a home cook craving something new, The Tinned Fish Cookbook is for you. Sustainable fishing advocate Bart van Olphen shines a light on the superstar potential of canned tuna, salmon, anchovies, and more, with recipes that are ready in a jiff. Here are hearty mains from Tuna Lasagna to Mackerel and Potato Frittata, fresh salads like the classic Niçoise Salad and crisp Crab and Fennel Watercress Salad, and creative takes on normally less-fishy fare, such as Anchovy Dumplings, Salmon Pizza, and Quinoa Tabbouleh with Sardines. The possibilities are endless—and the photos by David Loftus are irresistible. What’s more, Bart dives into the wonders of modern fishing and canning, helping you recognize eco-friendly fish, so you can enjoy your ocean-to-plate meal with confidence. There’s more to tinned fish than ever before!
How to swap out your seafood for more sustainable choices
Our series What's the Catch with Matthew Evans explored how we can all do our part to ensure the supply of seafood for future generations. Here are a few of the tips:
• When in doubt, buy local: Australian fisheries are in pretty good shape, but 70% of the seafood eaten in Australia is imported, where there's less transparency about fish stocks or the impact of fishing practices.
• Change it up: Try to eat a variety of different fish and other seafood - this helps to keep demand sustainable. If you want to swap one variety for another in a recipe but aren't sure, ask your local fishmonger (or a knowledgeable friend/ relative!).
• Give the slow-growing tuna and salmon stocks a break by choosing less commonly eaten and more productive species.
More sustainable choices:
These fish are tracked by the Australian Marine Conservation Society as having healthy stocks, and being caught by fishing methods that have a relatively low impact on marine habitats and protected species.
Flathead's gentle flavour, firm flesh and light texture make it a good default option for many cooking methods: it can be eaten as ceviche or sashimi when very fresh, battered and deep-fried, or made into the perfect casual summer entertaining food, flathead tacos.
2. Spanish mackerel
Mackerel is an oily fish with a bold flavour, so it works well with ingredients or condiments that have an edge, like vinegar and lemon juice. In this recipe for roasted Spanish mackerel with broccoli puree and crispy capers, the salty capers and creamy, vibrant green puree balance out the richness of the fish.
Roasted Spanish mackerel with broccoli puree and crispy capers.
3. Red Emperor
Red Emperor is one of Australia’s favourite fish, with firm white flesh, large flake and delicate flavour, it works well in a variety of dishes. This barbecued red emperor with finger lime, ginger and lemongrass is a particular winner.
Barbecued red emperor with finger lime, ginger and lemongrass.
Source: Andy and Ben Eat Australia, Food Network
King George, Eastern School, Sand whiting or Stout whiting—whiting has a light, sweet flavour and need little intervention aside from a hot pan to make them taste exceptional. In this recipe for pan-fried whiting with celery and pomegranate salad, the whiting is simply cooked in olive oil, lemon and parsley for a couple of minutes on both sides and serve with a bright, crunchy salad. Perfect for a quick but impressive midweek meal.
Pan-fried whiting with celery and pomegranate salad.
Popular in Mediterranean cuisine since Roman times, mullet is often shunned in Australia due to its more intensely fishy flavour. But this deep umami quality works well cooked on dry heat—baked, grilled, barbecued to bring out its natural sweetness—as well as smoking and pickling to soften the fishy taste, or cooking it up in a bold curry, like this south Indian curry of mullet.
South Indian curry of mullet.
Source: Ben Dearnley
If you want to cook sardines with success it's best to take a note from the professionals: the Spanish and Portuguese. Coat the sardines in a herb-laced crumb, grilled them, and served them with a creamy condiment - it's a recipe for success. Try it with these fried sardines with aioli, and find a new-found fondness of this lesser-loved variety in Australia.
Fried sardines with aioli.
Source: China Squirrel
Australian blue mussels are farmed in a way with negligible impact on habitat or other species, and they filter food from the water, meaning they don't require additional feed. Try this sustainable seafood choice cooked up as a French classic, mussels in white wine (moules marinières). Serve the mussels with plenty of crusty bread to mop up all the deliciously briny, minerally, herb-infused boozy broth, or serve with fries to make the meal a Belgian classic.
Mussels in white wine (moules marinières).
Source: Luke Nguyen's France
Australians waters are blessed with all sorts of prawns (we didn't get a reputation for throwing a shrimp on the barbie for nothing). Look out for local varieties like black tiger, kuruma, banana, Western King, and Bay prawns. Try this 5-minute wonder, stir-fried prawns with black pepper and cardamom, and serve it with freshly steamed white rice to soak up the fragrant sauce.
Stir-fried prawns with black pepper and cardamom.
Squid reproduces quickly, meaning stocks can replenish themselves and making squid a sustainable choice. Look for local Gould's Squid or Southern Calamari. When cooking squid, the trick to keep squid tender is to not overdo it - cook it until it just begins to curl and turns opaque, about 30-60 seconds. Try this fried squid with basil, and serve it with lots of fresh lemon wedges.
10. Mud crab
Mud crabs have a lot of meat, so are a great choice when you're feeding a few. The colours of the Kimberley region of Australia were the inspiration for this flavour-bomb of a dish by Adam Liaw, chilli, tamarind and mango mud crab. Crack the claws to open channels for the flavours of the tamarind and mango sambal steep through.
Chilli, tamarind and mango mud crab.
Octopus doesn't have to just be restaurant food - you can cook at home! The tough meat means you do need to tenderise it, which can be done by brining it, slow cooking it, or poaching it, like this olive oil-poached octopus.
Olive oil poached octopus with cayenne pepper.
Source: Sharyn Cairns
If you accidentally spilt your gin cocktail into your oysters and ate them anyway, it would taste along the lines of this genius concoction: soy, ginger, cumquat and gin oysters. The good news for oyster lovers, oyster farming has a very low overall impact on our oceans.
Soy, ginger, cumquat and gin oysters.
Source: Benito Martin
Scallops with roast garlic and lemon: a creamy onion puree, topped with fragrant fried scallops and crispy onion rings. If available, choose saucer over commercial scallops.
Scallops with roast garlic and lemon.
Source: Shane Delia's Recipe For Life
Swap out these:
If you want to eat tuna, bypass Bluefin and go with Skipjack.
Skipjack is a fast-growing tuna variety that is still fairly abundant around the world. This recipe for skipjack tuna with Japanese marinade showcases the light but hearty qualities of the fish.
Skipjack tuna with Japanese marinade.
Source: Gourmet Farmer Australia
. or Albacore tuna
Albacore tuna is lean fish with meaty appeal. Try it cooked 'tataki style (seared on the outside, raw on the middle) in this albacore tuna, tomato and cucumber salad with dill and olives.
Albacore tuna, tomato and cucumber salad with dill and olives.
Instead of mulloway (Jewfish), go for mahi-mahi or Chilean Sea Bass
Try this recipe for pan-fried mulloway fillets in lemongrass and chilli for a seamless substitution.
Pan-fried mulloway fillets with lemongrass and chilli.
Source: Alan Benson
If you're an eel lover, try using Spanish mackerel instead
Eel fans out there (believe it or not, they do exist!) are fans of its rich, oily qualities. Unfortunately, their low populations, environmental susceptibility, unsustainable feeding practices when farmed mean they should be avoided. The good news is, Spanish mackerel offers similar perks, and is a more sustainable option. Try it for yourself with this pan-fried eel in coconut and saffron sauce.
Pan-fried eel in coconut and saffron sauce.
Binge-watch the entire series of What's The Catch with Matthew Evans:
Good Fish: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the Pacific Coast
It can be intimidating to shop for seafood You wonder if it s healthy for you, you worry about whether it s overfished and whether it s caught in ways that harm other species or the environment Making smart seafood choices has never been confusing or important for the planet and our health Chef and seafood advocate Becky Selengut knows from good fish, and in aIt can be intimidating to shop for seafood You wonder if it s healthy for you, you worry about whether it s overfished and whether it s caught in ways that harm other species or the environment Making smart seafood choices has never been confusing or important for the planet and our health Chef and seafood advocate Becky Selengut knows from good fish, and in a voice that s informed but down to earth, she untangles the morass surro
Wonderfully helpful guide to responsible Northwest seafood. Selengut's recipes are a tad demanding for my taste, but she's a friendly guide. And she teaches part-time at Bastyr, so she's awesome. (I interviewed her about sardines last year.)
This would be worth the price of admission for the Oregon pink shrimp salad alone (Swoon). Divine!
While I have moved this to my 'read' pile, I know I will be repeatedly coming back to this cookbook time and again. I have now prepared and sampled many items from this book and I can say that every one of them was delicious (even the ones I thought were a little suspect - who knew sardines
Absolutely beautiful book, an inspiring concept and gorgeous photography. However, although I was hoping for more in-depth ecological and biological info, this is mainly a cookbook. The recipes seem exciting, but good quality seafood -- sustainable or otherwise -- is a too-rare treat in my
Gorgeous layout and design. This book is a treat to peruse. I tried the scallop searing method which involves very high heat and some smoke. My hubby stood by shaking his head sadly at the apparent waste of some good shellfish. Perfection! Seriously good. I look forward to trying more recip
The most sustainable fish to eat right now, and how to cook it
Once upon a time, we chose seafood according to what we fancied or could afford, with little thought for sustainability. We now know better.
The Marine Conservation Society estimates 90 per cent of fish stocks globally are fully or overexploited, with sea life under added pressure from climate change and pollution. And now a new Netflix documentary, Seaspiracy, has brought the subject to the fore once more, not least for coming under fire from scientists and marine experts for 'cherry picking' evidence and misrepresenting their views.
The hard-hitting 90-minute film, by the team behind Leonardo Di Caprio produced Cowspiracy and the brainchild of 27-year-old Ali Tabrizi from Kent, has caused many to swear off fish forever.
But while most consumers want to make responsible choices, it’s far more complicated than many of us realise. Consult the MCS’s Good Fish Guide and it seems like choosing the most sustainable fish (green) and avoiding the worst (red) requires a marine biology degree. That’s because it’s not just the species that’s important you need to know where and how the fish is caught.
For example, sea bass caught in the Bay of Biscay was put on the Guide’s red list in October because unsustainable fishing practices are killing increasing numbers of dolphins and porpoises. But according to Charlotte Coombes, the MCS’s Good Fish Guide Manager, wild sea bass is not caught this way in British waters and can be an OK choice (although still not recommended – farmed sea bass is better).
“I appreciate it’s complicated,” Coombes concedes. “But asking someone in a fishmonger’s, fish and chip shop or restaurant where and how the fish was caught will highlight to them how important it is for customers to feel reassured their seafood is sustainable.”
Avoiding fish caught in ways that are most likely to harm the environment can also be part of choosing seafood wisely. Beam trawling, for example, involves dragging nets suspended from heavy beams along the seabed. “It can almost cheese-slice through habitats, so it can be quite damaging,” Coombes says.
Dredging, widely used to harvest scallops, clams and oysters, can also destroy the seabed and unintentionally catch vulnerable species. Pots, traps, hand lines and pole lines, meanwhile, are considered the most sustainable fishing methods, being low intensity and safe for the seabed.
Chef Mitch Tonks, who runs the Seahorse restaurant in Dartmouth and the Rockfish chain of restaurants in the South West, believes we can make good seafood choices by following a simple premise: buy fish caught by British fishermen. “The British fishing fleet is well managed and sticks to strict controls, such as quotas and numbers of days at sea,” says Tonks, who is a pioneer of locally caught seafood. “If we start to think that all our fish will come from guys going to sea with a pipe and a yellow raincoat, it’s not going to happen.”
Whether we like it or not, Tonks argues, beam trawlers are a long-established part of the British fishing fleet and are responsible for catching 90 per cent of the fish landed at Brixham and Newlyn, two of Britain’s biggest fish markets. “If you say you shouldn’t eat anything from a beam trawler, you’re suggesting something that’s unattainable,” Tonks says. “My view is, buy British, know which fishing port the fish is from, and let’s hope that we can put enough pressure on the industry so it can change itself.”
Tonks urges consumers to choose fish carrying the “blue tick” eco-label, which is only applied to sustainable seafood certified to the Marine Stewardship Council Fisheries Standard, for which he is an ambassador. Many restaurants, fishmongers and fish-and-chip shops also sell MSC-certified seafood, so it’s a good idea to ask before you buy. More than 70 per cent of cod and 76 per cent of haddock eaten in the UK is now MSC labelled, so sustainable options are readily available if you look for it. The best farmed seafood options carry the Aquaculture Stewardship Council label.
Whether you vow to buy British seafood, opt for blue-tick-labelled fish or swot up on fishing techniques, every small effort can lead to changes for the better, Coombes says. “When people do sit up, pay attention to this stuff and make the right choices, it can make all the difference.”
Good fish swaps, according to the Marine Conservation Society
UK stocks are doing badly, but in Iceland and the Northeast Arctic they are at sustainable levels.
Swap for: hake, now a great sustainable choice.
Sustainability depends on the species, location and fishing methods.
Swap for: handline-caught mackerel (caught in the South West is best, but any UK-caught mackerel is good).
Can be sustainable depending on the species and where and how they were caught or farmed. Choose organic, MSC or ASC labels.
Swap for: rope-grown mussels or farmed oysters, which don’t need any feed or chemicals and get all they need from the sea.
Wild Atlantic salmon is not doing well and most farmed salmon needs improving. Organic and Scottish ASC-certified farmed salmon is the better choice.
Swap for: Farmed Arctic char, ideally from the UK, or farmed rainbow trout.
Other good choices
Haddock from UK seas as well as Iceland and the Northeast Arctic is sustainable.
Dover Sole from the Bristol Channel and western English Channel are booming.
Best Choices Might Be Farmed Fish
It might surprise some people what sustainability looks like—it does involve farming seafood. There is often the idea that farmed fish is bad and wild is better. In some cases that’s true, but a quote from Paul Greenberg’s book Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food sums up the dilemma, using salmon as an example: “It would be wonderful if all the salmon we eat could be wild. But as one marine ecologist said to me recently, to continue to eat large wild fish at the rate we’ve been eating them we would need ‘four or five oceans’ to support the current human population.”
Farmed fish has been vilified in the past, and in the cases of the most intensive, high-chemical, high-density farms, that’s fair. Sheila breaks down the reality around farmed fish: “That destructive model, which is a 20- to 30-year-old approach centered on salmon, is still out there. But so many of our Green list items are farmed.” (Being on the Green list means they’re well managed and caught or farmed in ways that cause little harm to habitats or other wildlife.)
And those mistakes of the past, she hopes will be avoided as aquaculture continues to grow. “We’ll see countries like India, which is emerging as a major shrimp source, and Mexico skip the environmental destruction phase and build based on the best practices of today.”
The Top 5 Most Sustainable Seafood Choices for Summer Seafood Menus
Summer may seen synonymous with light seafood dishes, but it&aposs just as important to bear in mind what seafood you&aposre eating. Sustainability is an important quality when picking your favorite summer fish recipes. Luckily, we&aposveone the work for you and rounded up some of the best sustainable seafood choices for this summer.
Many different lists are published all over the web to let you know what local fish are sustainably fished near you, and the more local you can keep your fish, the better!
With President Obama&aposs decision to crack down on illegal fishing and seafood fraud, the sustainable seafood choices are getting easier to find. But the battle isn&apost won yet. It&aposs important to stay informed in order to make good choices. The marine stewardship councilꃎrtifies certain seafoods as sustainable, such as anchovies, clams, crabs, hake, mussels, salmon and swordfish. But it&aposs just as important to look at other information on the label to stay informed about which versions of these seafoods are actually sustainably fished. If you&aposre going to be eating a lot of fish this summer, it might be worthwhile to download a sustainable fish app. In the meantime, here are just some of our top choices.
1. Farmed Oysters
There are many reasons to feel good about eating oysters,ਊnd sustainability is just one of them. Choose farmed oysters from a suspended culture system. This technique involves hanging nets from a flotation system so that oysters are in the water at all times, rising and falling from the tides. Because oysters cannot tolerate toxins, oyster farming often increases awareness of the ecological status of the waters in which they are farmed, making oyster farming a sustainable practice.
2. Canadian Pacific Spot Prawns
As far as sustainable shrimp and prawns are concerned, you have several choices, but one of the best right now are Canadian Pacific spot prawns. Spot prawns are harvested by trap and are named for the distinctive white spots they spot on their abdomens. Their sweet flavor makes them a great choice in our roasted shrimp with lemon pasta recipe.
3. Canadian and U.S. Pacific Purse Seine Sardines
Sardines are fantastically healthy for you, and when you choose sustainable sardines, they&aposre even better. Purse seine is a large-scale fishing operation that is nevertheless supported by Greenpeace, because fish that swim in schools are targeted by this method, and relatively clean catches can therefore be procured. Sardines have long been a part of Scandinavian diets, where the natural fatty acids of the fish can shine. They&aposre also delicious in our recipe for pasta with sardines.
4. North Atlantic Silver Hake
Hake is a very popular fish in Spanish cuisine and is a delicious alternative to white fish like cod. While silver hake was previously overfished, it is now safe to eat silver hake hailing from the Atlantic, as long as it&aposs fished further north than North Carolina. Try it cooked simply with garlic and pepper, for a hake recipe that will allow you to get to know this previously unfamiliar sustainable fish.
5. Albacore Tuna
Many different kinds of tuna are not sustainable -- bluefin tuna is so endangered that Iron Chef America has banned it from use in the show -- but if you focus on troll or pole-caught Albacore, you&aposre in the clear. Pole-catching keeps out other species like dolphins who are occasionally caught in tuna nets. Albacore has a more mild flavor than some kinds of tuna, but it&aposs still delicious in our spiced fish tacos.