The Chef Collaborative organization presents monthly Chef Power Hour talks and this week’s conversation was about eating fish to save the health of the oceans. Because if you want to keep on eating fish, we need to make some big changes.
Some background: 80-90% of the fish eaten in the US is imported. Two thirds of our fish supply come from six countries: China, Canada, Thailand, Viet Nam, Indonesia and Chile. Three types of seafood dominate our consumption: shrimp, canned tuna and salmon.
This narrow and deep consumption pattern isn’t sustainable on any level. Our ocean resources are hugely depleted. Nearly 85% of the fisheries on the globe may be in danger of complete collapse as they are either fully or overly exploited, depleted or in recovery from exploitation.
Those are the problems, but there are people at every point in the supply chain who are identifying the key issues and trying to halt this disaster in the making.
We need to be comfortable eating different types of fish. And we need to eat more ‘snout to tail’, meaning we eat the whole fish, not just filets.
Michael Leviton, former owner of Lumiere, a Boston area restaurant, introduced smaller whole fish on his menu and found that it sold well and diners were comfortable eating around the bones. He’s also experimented with fried fish bones as a crunchy treat, and oven crisped skin.
(Chef Secret: bones add flavor. Your fish will be far more succulent if you cook a whole fish with the bones.)
Chefs, like Bun Lia at Miya’s Sushi, are going after invasive fish species like lionfish and the spiny dogfish by putting them on their menus. Double bonus: we learn to love a new kind of fish and we learn about the problem of invasive non-native fish.
Climate Change is going to shake things up.
Rising water temperature and ocean acidification are contributing to the extinction of many species of fish. 25% of our marine species live on coral reefs and the higher levels of acid in the ocean are killing off our reefs. As the oceans heat up, the fish have to either move to cooler waters or face annihilation. As they move to cooler waters, fishing communities will have to migrate as well.
Fishing methods are devastating the oceans.
Trawlers are the equivalent of clear cutting a forest. The trawling method pulls up every living thing and only the choice bits are kept while the rest are wasted.
Shorter supply chains increase traceability
This give us the ability to actually figure out where your fish comes from. And you, the consumer, can start the learn
the various suppliers and ask for them by name. Step by step, pressure from the consumer and the chefs will make changes in the way fish get to our table.
Support the heroes who are out there making a difference:
Participants in the Eat It to Save It Chef Power Hour:
Bun Lai (Miya’s Sushi),
Michael Leviton, chef & restauranteur
Simran Sethi, author of “Bread Wine Chocolate. The Slow Loss of Foods We Love”
Sheila Bowman, Seafood Watch
Roxanne Nanninga, Environmental Defense Fund