Back in 2011, I went fishing as part of a challenge on “Top Chef All Stars” where we literally had to catch our own ingredients; I ended up catching and making bluefish, an oily but very flavorful fish that tastes great smoked — and is also a sustainable seafood. Making just a little extra effort to buy sustainable seafood can have a positive impact on the planet, but most of the time, we don’t really know where that fish on our plates came from originally.
Today we’re used to having shrimp, salmon, and scallops any time we want it, even if we live 1000 miles from the nearest ocean or large river, so I’ve become passionate about my work over the past four years with the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California to help people learn about how to bring fresh fish to the table that is also friendly to the environment. I just spent the weekend at the Aquarium’s 2015 Cooking for Solutions event, where I was excited to help raise awareness about sustainable seafood.
There are four factors that threaten marine life: overfishing, habitat loss, pollution, and “bycatch”, which are marine animals that get caught in fishing equipment by accident. Some people are also concerned about fish that might be contaminated with mercury or other substances, so they avoid seafood altogether. However, there is an amazing resource available to consumers from the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, where scientists continually analyze reports from around the world, from farmed to wild-caught seafood.
I particularly love the Seafood Watch App, which lets me find out if the seafood I am thinking about buying for dinner is sustainable, even while I’m standing at the fish counter at the grocery store. This free app provides a rating and, if the seafood is not sustainable, suggests an alternative. Say you’re partial to anchovies (some people are!), all you do is type in “anchovy” and you’ll find out that many European varieties are actually not sustainable because of overfishing and you’ll get a suggestion to consider anchovies from the Adriatic Sea, where they have instituted strong fishery management practices, or try the Pacific Sardine, a Seafood Watch “Best Choice”.
Restaurants and fish retailers need to know that sustainable seafood is important, so be sure to ask if sustainable seafood is available and then let them know that it matters to you!
Looking for a tasty fish dish with tropical flair? Check out my take on Brazilian Coconut Fish Stew, using two types of sustainable seafood: snapper and shrimp.