The restaurants of San Francisco and Charleston have one important thing in common: either place, you are likely to encounter a wonderfully flavorful and healthy fish choice on menus – wreckfish.
Wreckfish (Polyprion americanus) is a very widely distributed, deepwater fish found around canyons, escarpments and wrecks, as its name implies. Juveniles associate with floating seaweed and debris, helping to distribute the animal around the world ocean as flotsam drifts. Wreckfish may exceed six feet in length, and 200 pounds, with the oldest known individual aged at 81 years.
Conservation is sorely lacking, with the exception of the U.S. South Atlantic region, where an innovative type of catch share called an “individual transferable quota” (ITQ) fishery management system was developed in 1991 and implemented in 1992. ITQs allocate percentages of a scientifically-appropriate catch limit to fishermen, who may then sell or trade them within socially acceptable limits. The wreckfish of the Pacific and Indian Oceans is a close relative; the only management system for that fish is also an ITQ, in New Zealand.
The wreckfish ITQ in the South Atlantic region has been a great success, pleasing both fishermen and conservationists alike. The only criticism has been of an apparent “under harvest” while fishermen have fished for other species. I don’t think I have to explain how notable that is in this day of constant excesses! The South Atlantic Fishery Management Council (Council) is currently reviewing this fishery, including the overall quota, and possible management for a newly developing “deep drop” recreational fishery. I am impressed with the Council’s management to date of the wreckfish, and am looking forward to their future steps on catch shares.
Here’s something you don’t hear about every day: good news about the Chesapeake Bay. The Washington Post is reporting that an artificial reef in a tributary is teeming with new life. The reef is nothing more complex than a large pile of shells. Historically reefs like that were so numerous they were a hazard for ships. So many oysters lived in the Chesapeake that they filtered all the water in the bay every few days.
The demise of the Chesapeake oyster came around the turn of the last century through a manic and violent harvest that reduced the population to just one percent of historic abundance in less than a century. As many as 15 million oysters were harvested annually in the late 1800's, compared to 100,000 or less today.
Scores of people died in the mad pursuit of oysters. Maryland was forced to establish the Oyster Police to protect its oystermen against their counterparts from Virginia. Violent conflicts between watermen from the two states became so common that this era is now known as the Oyster Wars.
By Kristen Honey, EDF Lorry Lokey Fellow
Are sardines making a sustainable and sumptuous comeback? The Washington Post attempted to address this very question yesterday in a provocative article about the self-proclaimed “Sardinistas.” According to this group of nutritionists, environmentalists and foodie revolutionaries, the answer is a resounding “yes!” Sardine advocates and cutting-edge green chefs like Dean Gold and David Myers are bringing this smelly canned food out of the cob-webbed cabinet corner and back into the kitchen in innovative new ways. Or they are trying to, at least.
Just recently, I had the privilege of attending a private luncheon with the Sardinistas at filmmaker Mark Shelley’s Sea Studios Foundation on Monterey’s Cannery Row. The purpose of this luncheon was to highlight their recent efforts to promote sardines as a delicious and sustainable seafood choice. What struck me was their point that while Americans love eating tuna and other steak-like fish, we need to eat fish farther down the food chain (like sardines) to help alleviate pressure at the top.
After talking shop, we had the chance to eat delectable canned, frozen and fresh sardine dishes by renowned chef Alton Brown of The Food Network! If you don’t take my word for how tasty these creatures can be, try out for yourself these sardine-centric recipes for Sarde Arrosto (Griddle Roasted Sardines), Stuffed Sardines and Vuido (widowed potatoes).
I was pleased that the group tied in the tastings with a bit of history, noting that Cannery Row was once considered the sardine Mecca of the U.S. in the late 1930s. However, by the 1950s the sardine population was severely depleted due to poor fishery management that didn’t take into account natural ocean cycles.
The tides have changed (no oceans pun intended) for these cute little guys and today EDF’s Seafood Selector rates Pacific sardines as an “eco-best fish.” Their re-emergence was no accident; the sardine fishery is now managed in a sustainable way, with fishing quotas at one-tenth of what they were during the 1930s. So listen to your curious, daring taste-buds and eat some sardines for a change – not only do all those omega-3 fatty acids improve your health, but you are doing a service to the planet.