Fish+Ignorance =Zero

*Pristine arctic char from ilovebluesea.com*

Over the last couple of years, one hears these words often; sustainable, eco friendly,  endangered, and it has become as unnoticeable as the word organic.

So let’s start somewhere else, how do we put emphasis on something important without sounding like a preacher falling on deaf ears.  Most of the people that come to my blog are either chefs or food lovers.   With this being said, I am telling you something important, without the preaching, and only because I care, so that means I hope you do as well.

A few months ago I saw a documentary on National Geographic that jolted me into writing this. It was about the fish and current state of the ocean in the Mediterranean waters.  Jacques Cousteau’s son was invited to be apart of the exploration as well.  They had video footage of the waters that Jacques Cousteau himself had taken in the 1950″s.  Then they showed the waters then and now and I was disturbed.  An element that tells how healthy the eco system is in the Mediterranean is the amount of red coral in the water.  In the 1950’s, it was everywhere.  Now, there is almost NONE.  It gets more disturbing.  They showed footage of the fish living in the area around Montpellier France and back then and it was absolutely beautiful.  It appeared as a very busy underwater highway with a large variety and amount of fish.  They went to the same spot in 2011 and there was almost no fish or any other sea life.

They then focused on the largest area that had been affected, and it was the Tuna.  I found out that 85% of the world’s big tuna is gone. I thought to myself, that can’t be right.  How could it get that bad?  Doesn’t anybody care?  I knew I did.  I was actually furious and really pissed off.  I thought to myself “I have to do something!”, any little bit I would imagine would help.

So what did I do?  First I made it priority number one to educate myself.  After all,  knowledge brings awareness and awareness brings action to correct the situation.   We have no excuse not to constantly educate ourselves. I did some research and found an alternative seafood list.

I have been aware of only certain facts of the fishing industry that pertain to fishing techniques used by fisherman.  Some techniques like Trawls and Dredges, use nets as large as football fields and drag the bottom of the ocean, destroying the ocean floor and catching bycatch (sea turtles, sharks, etc).

Ask your fish mongers and purveyors how the fish is caught.  There are great and less invasive ways of catching fish like pole/troll caught techniques, that if we support will stay in business and bring less attention to large abusive ways of catching fish.

 “Modern fishing practices are incredibly wasteful. Every year, fishing nets kill up to 300,000 whales, dolphins and porpoises globally”. Martin Reed, founder of ilovebluesea.com

Sea Turtle caught in large nets.

CONTAMINANTS IN SEAFOOD

Seafood contaminants include metals (such as mercury, which affects brain function and development), industrial chemicals (PCBs and dioxins) and pesticides (DDT). These toxins usually originate on land and make their way into the smallest plants and animals at the base of the ocean food web. As smaller species are eaten by larger ones, contaminants are concentrated and accumulated. Large predatory fish—like swordfish and shark—end up with the most toxins. You can minimize risks by choosing seafood carefully.
Here is an essential seafood guide to have:

Here is some spotted skate I was working with in April..  Since then I found out that it is on the depleted list.  So as much as I love skate, that was my last one for a few years.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

About 6 months ago I discovered I Love Blue Sea.  A seafood company based in the San Francisco area.  They ship overnight and everything on their fish and seafood list is absolutely top quality and sustainable.    Take some time to discover all their efforts on their website.  I use them almost exclusively now.

Living on the coast in Southern California, you would think I could get fresh seafood always, this has not been the case in the past.  I have zero tolerance for inferior products so now I have piece of mind knowing that I will always get perfect seafood specimens from I Love Blue Sea.

Not only that, they even ship in eco friendly boxes with deluxe cooling that keeps the fish at a constant cold temperature.  They don’t use styrofoam.

“Following guidelines set forth by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, we exist to allow chefs and consumers access to the biggest selection of the freshest sustainable seafood available.”  Martin Reed, founder I love blue sea

I have developed a great relationship with them and Matt Carreira really takes care of me.

*My first box of amazing fish!

Another great company that offers local and seasonal fish, seafood and other sustainable foods is Foods In Season.  They mainly offer seafood from the northwestern part of the United States and I have used them all through salmon season.  What a great season it was and their salmon really helped me take some dishes to a new level.  I am aware of the extreme overfishing of sturgeon in the Caspian Sea as well. They introduced me to some Caviar from Uruguay that follows their sustainable high standards and the flavor is wonderful.  Looking for alternatives from sturgeon caviar is also a new flavor discovery as well.

*Black River Ossetra from Uruguay

*Springer Salmon, in season and Uber fresh

A word to Chefs!

So how do we tip the scales in a more favorable way?  I believe it is up to us chefs to help diners make a different decision on our menu’s.  One, get creative.  Everyone loves Bluefin tuna belly, of course it is amazing.  But instead of trying to convince them not to have the tuna, offer them ” the new exotic fish” or “a rare treat” from Hawaii.  Try brining in exotic spices and flavors, or gently poaching in flavored bouillons or spiced oil.  Sous vide in flavored compound butters and herbs.  Different fish hold up to such a vast array of flavors, if they taste a albacore prepared in a new way, they will remember that experience as not having the tuna but discovering a new fish that they will gladly choose next time they see it on a menu.

With the Tuna element, try skipjack tuna (Katsuo), it is a cousin of the tuna family and has an amazing fatty flavor.  The skipjack reaches sexual maturity faster than the bluefin tuna and therefore reproduces more often and sooner than the other tunas.  With proper catching methods this makes an incredible tuna alternative where everyone wins, especially the vanishing bluefins.

At the end of the day, it doesn’t take much effort, or maybe it does.  The power lies in our hands, the chefs and the diners as well, we all have a choice.  It is so easy to decide to make an alternative choice.  Even if everyone did this for 5 years, the population of dying breeds of fish will greatly increase.  At this point, we could go either way.

Some Dishes using abundant Fish.

Salmon “Mi Cuit”, smoked tapioca cream, cherry flavors, foie gras, thai lemon herbs

 

White asparagus custard, lemon peel brined salmon, vadouvan crumbs, ossetra caviar, chive blossom oil

Brined arctic char, coconut mojito puree, pepperint, urfa pepper shallot confit, finger limes, puffed bamboo rice