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. Read More
Photo Credit: Nate Gray/flickr
Monkfish, aka American goosefish, eats way better than it looks.
When it comes to seafood, we are creatures of narrow habit. The average American eats about 15 pounds of seafood each year (well below the global average for coastal nations), almost 60% of which is either shrimp, canned tuna or salmon. That number jumps to more than 80% if you include "whitefish" like pollock, tilapia and cod.
So when one of these few items becomes overfished, too expensive or less available, the market usually just tries to pass off some other species in its place.
For example, 20 years ago, no one knew what a slimehead or American goosefish was. But when Atlantic cod fisheries crashed, low-value orange roughy and monkfish slowly gained in popularity and are now staples on restaurant menus – even though most people have no idea what the actual fish look like. What started out as worthless bycatch (also known as trash fish) that usually got dumped overboard will now routinely run you $10/lb or more in the market.
Unfortunately, Atlantic cod populations off New England are actually faring even worse today. We recently learned thatfishing quotas for 2013 will be slashed by almost 80% in certain areas compared to last year. There are several factors at play, among them decades of intense fishing pressure, ecosystem shifts and climate change. Nevertheless, we should still support New England fishermen by purchasing what little local cod makes it to market in 2013.
But how can we ensure that this iconic fishery – and others like it on the Pacific coast – don’t disappear quietly in the night? Our experience with orange roughy and monkfish provides one important answer: Previously unfamiliar fish can win the hearts of seafood lovers and help strengthen local fisheries. Read More
Eating with the Ecosystem is a project created to help consumers learn about the marine waters from which New England seafood is harvested. The project aims to build upon related efforts focused on sustainable seafood and eating local by urging consumers to think about the suite of species living together in a given place, and their ecological interactions and fluctuations in abundance. In other words, their mission is to grow awareness of individual species to awareness of the entire ecosystem.
One important message of Eating with the Ecosystem is that consumers should focus on healthy stocks so that we benefit from abundance while allowing other resources to recover. Today, this means being willing to try species that are unfamiliar to many seafood lovers. As we work to recover well-known species like cod and flounder, species such as dogfish, skates, hake, pollock and redfish present opportunities to offset lost revenue for fishermen, and for diners to try some new tastes. Fortunately, based on the results of a poll conducted collaboratively by EDF and the Center for Marketing Research at UMass-Dartmouth, consumers seem willing to give those species a chance. Read More
Today’s ‘Fish on Friday’ post will be a little bit different. Rather than focusing on a single species or fisherman, we want to highlight a growing movement and event to celebrate lesser known fish species and support New England fishermen—who need the support now more than ever.
With substantial catch reductions looming for Atlantic cod and several other popular species, you might think that buying sustainable, local seafood would be more challenging than ever. However there are many other healthy fish populations in New England’s waters, and with a little creativity, they could become staples of your seafood repertoire.
Sometimes called “trash fish,” underutilized fish species such as redfish, hake, Atlantic pollock and sea robin, have long taken a back seat on fishing vessels and restaurant menus to more popular species, such as cod. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth your attention. Read More