Selected tags: trash fish

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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Support American Fishermen: Fish for a different dish


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.

It turns out that cod fishermen can also target several other related species, but traditionally haven’t done so because they don’t yet command a good price. Trash fish (or as I like to call them, under-appreciated species) like Atlantic hakepollock and Acadian redfish may be the key to this fishery’s survival. Read More »

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Eating with the Ecosystem: Georges Bank

Eating with the EcosystemEating 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.

In the spirit of the “trash fish” dinner recently sponsored by the Chef’s Collaborative, Eating with the Ecosystem is hosting a series of dinners across New England to showcase underappreciated seafood and the ecosystems from which it comes. I was fortunate to attend their most recent event highlighting the Georges Bank ecosystem, which was held at one of my favorite restaurants: Ten Tables, located right in my own neighborhood, Boston’s Jamaica Plain.

The menu began with a simple sea scallop ceviche served with Hakurei turnip, green apple and arugula.  As the basis of the most valuable fishery in the United States, sea scallops are far from unknown in the market!  But the stock is abundant, and no meal focused on the Georges Bank would be complete without scallops on the menu.

Next up was a house cured hake brandade, served alongside pickles and mini toasts.  There are actually three different species of hake found on Georges Bank: white, red and silver.  An interesting ecological linkage between the first course and the second is that juvenile red hake take shelter inside adult sea scallops after beginning their lives as tiny larvae drifting among the plankton and then settling to the seafloor. Read More »

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‘Fish on Fridays’: Chefs Collaborative shines the spotlight on underappreciated New England groundfish

Trash Fish Dinner Invitation 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.

So if you’d like to support the New England fishing industry as you enjoy a delicious seafood dinner for Lent, consider giving some of these species a try. Chef Michael Leviton, chef/owner of Lumiere in Newton, MA, and Area Four in Cambridge, MA, believes so strongly in the potential for these species he’s organizing a “coming out” party for these fish on behalf of Chefs Collaborative, of which he is also chairman of the board.


The Event: Trash Fish Dinner

On March 10, Leviton will join chefs Rich Garcia, Larry Leibowitz, Evan Mallett, Mary Reilly, Jake Rojas, Michael Scelfo, Derek Wagner and Drew Hedlund as they present a multi-course Trash Fish Dinner featuring underutilized species at Area Four. Dinner will be followed by a discussion of the future of sustainable seafood. Environmental Defense Fund is a lead sponsor of the event.

As for how to prepare these fish at home, hake and pollock substitute well for most recipes that call for cod or haddock. Sea robin, known for its bright, wing-like fins and its propensity for stealing bait, is often used in traditional Italian recipes or as an ingredient in bouillabaisse.

Can’t make it to the March 10 Chefs Collaborative dinner? Consider trying Chef Rich Garcia’s mouthwatering recipe for ‘Trash Fish’ Minestrone:


‘Trash Fish’ Minestrone:


8 ounces dried Maine Yellow Eyed beans soaked overnight (any dried white bean will work)

3 ounces slab bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces

2 Tablespoons olive oil blend

5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2 pieces celery, medium dice

2 medium onions, medium dice

3 carrots, peeled and medium dice

8 cups lobster stock (you can also use good quality fish stock)

1 white potato cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 cup winter squash medium dice (butternut, red kuri etc)

15 ounce canned plum tomatoes drained and chopped

1/2 cup shredded Savoy cabbage

2 Tablespoons chopped fresh basil

6 ounce kale rough chopped

8 ounces cooked Maine lobster, cut into bite-sized pieces

8 ounces Gulf Of Maine Acadian red fish fillets, boneless/skinless cut into 1×1 chunks and sautéed until cooked

8 ounces Gulf Of Maine Pollock boneless/skinless cut into 1×1 chunks and sautéed until cooked

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese


Cook the soaked beans in water until they are just tender. Reserve.

Using a large, heavy soup pot, fry the bacon in the olive oil. Add the garlic, stirring and cooking until it starts to just brown. Add the chopped celery, onion, and carrots, stirring and cooking until the vegetables start to soften. Stir in the lobster stock and bring the mixture to a boil.

Add the potatoes and squash and cook until they start to soften, then stir in the beans, plum tomatoes, Savoy cabbage, kale and basil. Simmer the mixture for about 10 minutes. Season to taste with sea salt and fresh pepper.

When ready to serve, bring the soup to just under a boil and stir in the fish and Maine lobster and cook over gentle heat until seafood is warmed through. Transfer to soup bowls and sprinkle 1 Tablespoon of fresh parmesan cheese on top.

Serves 12

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