Selected tags: sea to plate

The quest for sustainable seafood has never been easier

Photo credit: Rick Moonen/RM Seafood

Photo credit: Rick Moonen/RM Seafood

If you love seafood, the six weeks between Mardi Gras and Easter is likely one of your favorite times of the year. It doesn’t hurt that restaurants, fish markets and grocery stores are awash with Lenten promotions, resulting in the most profitable period for seafood sales.

So why not use this time to get out of your comfort zone?  Put down the tuna and salmon and try something new; the seafood market has an abundance of options.   Additionally, consumers are seeking out local and sustainable seafood like never before, representing some of the hottest trends in the restaurant industry for the past several years.

But which fish are the best to buy? Tools like EDF’s mobile  Seafood Selector and Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app are great ways to have sustainable seafood recommendations at your fingertips. Some fish pundits like Chef Alton Brown – host of Good Eats and other programs on the Food Network – go so far as to encourage consumers to ignore all the labels and just “Buy American.” In the absence of definitive information, this might be your best option. However, it’s usually a good bet that your fishmonger or server can tell you where their fish is from.

Did you know?

The average piece of fish can be handled by up to 10-15 people before it gets to your plate. This isn’t inherently bad, especially if it’s coming from remote waters, like Alaska’s Bering Sea. However, more and more seafood lovers want to know who caught their fish, and more importantly, how long it’s taken to get to market. In response, a number of companies, fishermen and nonprofits alike are committed to “shortening the supply chain” between the ocean and your plate. Here’s a sampling of some of our favorites:

  • Gulf Wild provides individually tagged, traceable and responsibly-caught red snapper and grouper from the Gulf of Mexico.
  • Ecofish is one of the first all-sustainable seafood companies. Their products can be found in health food and natural food stores all across the country.
  • I Love Blue Sea is a California-based company selling a variety of seafood online and direct to consumers. They recently added Gulf Coast and Chesapeake Bay products too.
  • Dock to Dish is a new startup on the East End of Long Island that delivers fresh, hand-caught Montauk seafood to New York City restaurants and consumers within 24 hours.
  • Sea 2 Table partners with local fishermen from small-scale wild fisheries around the country to get their catch direct to market as fast as possible.
  • Community Supported Fisheries have sprung up in the last few years in the mold of CSAs (Community Supported Agriculture). Basically, you pay a local fisherman upfront for a share of his catch and receive a regular seafood delivery throughout the season.
  • Trash Fish or ‘underutilized’ or ‘underappreciated’ seafood species are all the rage right now, and our good friends at Chefs Collaborative are hosting a series of dinners around the country that hope to spread awareness about fish that are sustainably-caught yet undervalued.

It's never been easier to find sustainable, healthy seafood that directly benefits local, responsible fishermen. So put down that generic fish sandwich and help ensure that this trend continues.

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Who caught tonight's seafood dinner?

Jason DeLaCruz, a fisherman with Gulf Wild, holds grouper caught in the Gulf of Mexico. Fishermen provide detailed tracing information for the fish to market them to high-end chefs and retailers. Photo by Rich Taylor.

In E&E Greenwire today, reporter Allison Winter writes about a seafood label called Gulf Wild, which puts a barcode on fish from the Gulf of Mexico’s catch share program. Consumers can use that barcode to find out where exactly the fish was caught and the name of the fishermen who landed it. Fishermen involved in Gulf Wild also sign a “conservation covenant” and consumers can feel better knowing that the catch share program has successfully ended commercial overfishing. In addition, fishermen are no longer required, as they were under the old regulations, to toss good fish overboard if they accidentally catch it on the wrong day.

The article also discusses how catch shares have played a role in increasing seafood traceability for chefs and ultimately consumers:

“Some fishermen in the program also credit a new management system for creating the opportunity to start the program… One result, according to those involved with the fishery, is that fishermen have been more willing to cooperate with each other and have the time and incentive to fish more carefully and find new ways to market their fish.”

“(Catch share) advocates — including chefs, some environmental groups and fishermen involved in the programs — say they create a stable environment for fish and fishermen and a steadier supply for the market. Rick Moonen, a renowned chef and advocate for sustainable seafood, is among them. Moonen supports catch shares for the environmental benefits but said his business also benefits with better-quality fish. Fishermen in a catch share can work more slowly and try to get a premium for fish that were handled carefully.

‘Sometimes, with other fisheries, you end up with a beat-up fish, and as a chef you're thinking, this sucks," Moonen said. "I would rather pay another dollar a pound and get a better fish. Boom, there you go, catch shares make that possible.’”

Read the full article here

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