In our September-October 2008 issue, Utne Reader excerpted a startling, vital book: Bottomfeeder, by Taras Grescoe, exposes the profound damage human appetites are bringing about on fragile ocean ecosystems, and the less-than-savory conditions from which much of the world’s farmed fish hails.
“The good news is that there is a way to eat that balances conservation and health—even when it comes to the complex, multispecies cuisine that is seafood,” Grescoe writes. “And it can be done without leaving the oceans, or our plates, empty.”
In that spirit, we’ve collected a slew of resources to help readers start learning about or expand their knowledge of sustainable seafood. We have online exclusive content from Grescoe’s Bottomfeeder. We’ve also assmebled mouth-watering recipes for readers making the shift to sustainable cooking. Plus, there are oodles of online resources, everything from websites for parents preparing seafood for children to simple mercury safety calculators.
Online exclusive: Principles to Follow When Buying Seafood
Online exclusive: Fish To Eat Always, Sometimes, and Never
Eating ethical seafood can be sustainably delicious, but preparing mullet, mussels, sardines, and squid is a far cry from the familiarity of pre-packaged filets. To help get you cooking, we’ve collected some sustainability-focused seafood recipes and kitchen resources. For the more experienced chef, there are a number of unusual recipes to expand your repertoire. Prepare to poach, fry, and steam your way to seafood heaven!
--> Share recipes and tips in the Sustainable Seafood Salon.
--> Try out Baked Trout with Roasted Root Vegetable Risotto and Butternut Squash Puree, an Utne.com exclusive recipe from special guest chef Phil Werst.
Chef’s Collaborative is a “community of chefs, farmers, fishers, educators, and food lovers dedicated to promoting sustainable cuisine.” The group’s Seafood Solutions program works to educate chefs about seafood sustainability, and this past July they released an updated edition of Seafood Solutions: A Chef’s Guide to Sourcing Sustainable Seafood (pdf).
“Cooking for Solutions,” an annual event hosted by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, assembles chefs from around the world to share their thoughts on sustainable cooking. The 2008 event happened in May; there is a recap on the Aquarium’s website.
Fish Without a Doubt is a recent cookbook coauthored by Rick Moonen and Roy Finamore. Moonen is a founding member of the Seafood Choices Alliance.
Bottomfeeder author Taras Grescoe provides a handful of recipes on his website, including one for line-caught, deep-fried haddock that Grescoe says he prefers to cod when it comes to satisfying a hankering for fish and chips.
The Leather District Gourmet website collected a trove of delicious recipes during the blog’s first “Teach a Man to Fish” event, which solicited recipes and stories relating to sustainable seafood. This year’s event will take place October 1 through 15. The recipes and results will be published on November 1.
The Marine Stewardship Council has an online archive that contains over 80 recipes, everything from Alaskan wild salmon carpaccio to “harbourmaster’s cockle treat.”
The National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) has gathered a mouth-watering list of recipes from NRDC home cooks and chef friends, to “help you take the guesswork out of serving a healthy, feel-good seafood meal.” Peruse recipes like grilled fresh sardines with preserved lemon salsa verde and Pacific cod potpies with dill biscuit crust. You can also download the complete list formatted as recipe cards (pdf).
Ocean Friendly Cuisine: Sustainable Seafood Recipes From The World’s Finest Chefs by James O. Fraioli, with a forward from Jean-Michel Cousteau, is a cookbook in association with the reputable Monterey Bay Aquarium.
The Smithsonian Institution has built a sustainable seafood website to accompany One Fish, Two Fish, Crawfish, Bluefish: The Smithsonian Sustainable Seafood Cookbook by Carole C. Baldwin and Julie H. Mounts. Sample recipes are available, as are seafood suggestions.
Selecting sustainable, eco-friendly, and healthy seafood is a challenge without shortcuts. In Bottomfeeder, Taras Grescoe reminds us that “wallet cards and eco-labels, though great tools, are only a beginning.” Until seafood is better regulated, the onus is on the consumer to be informed and ask questions. To help you along, we’ve gathered some of the best resources available online, expanding on suggestions that Grescoe puts forth in the appendix to Bottomfeeder.
Blue Ocean Institute
The Blue Ocean Institute hopes “to inspire a closer relationship with the sea through science, art, and literature.” With a compassion-based approach, the nonprofit strives to develop new audiences and constituencies for marine conservation. They’re also the masterminds behind FishPhone, which sends users seafood sustainability info via text message—for all those times you’re in a restaurant and can’t remember which fish is OK.
Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions
The Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions is a coalition of environmental and conservation groups aligned around a “Common Vision for Sustainable Seafood” (pdf). Ratifying members of the Alliance are the Blue Ocean Institute, the Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the David Suzuki Foundation, the Ecology Action Centre, the Environmental Defense Fund, FishChoice, FishWise, the Living Oceans Society, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Natural Resources Defense Council, the New England Aquarium, Ocean Conservancy, Sierra Club British Columbia, and the World Wildlife Fund (U.S.)
Type the name of a fish into FishBase, and the database will cross-reference that name and come up with the Latin name, as well as other common aliases for the species. The database nets a spot on Taras Grescoe’s resource list for taking the guesswork out of species selection. “A fish can go by many names, and these aliases can be the bane of seafood buying,” he writes. FishBase helps you keep ahead of the tide.
A project of the U.S. National Marine Fisheries Service, FishWatch aims to help consumers make informed decisions about seafood by providing “the most accurate and timely information available on the sustainability of U.S. seafood fisheries.” Their species search dishes up information on “sustainability status,” science and management, life history and habitat, role in the ecosystem, even important dates in species history.
FishWise is a nonprofit “seafood sustainability consultancy” that promotes ocean conservation through partnerships with industry. FishWise gets together with retailers, distributors, fisherpeople, and aquaculturists to promote a more transparent chain of custody. You can sign-up for an e-newsletter on the group’s website.
Safe mercury limits are calculated based on weight, which means little bodies are more susceptible to the heavy metals in certain seafood. KidSafe Seafood taps the knowledge of scientists, pediatricians, and chefs to help parents select and prepare more nutritious seafood for their children. KidSafe Seafood is a project of SeaWeb, with some help from Environmental Defense. The program puts out a monthly e-Recipes e-mail.
Marine Stewardship Council
The Marine Stewardship Council is one of the best known international fishery certification and (wild-caught) seafood labeling programs. Taras Grescoe calls their blue-and-white stamp of approval “the best eco-label on the shelves.” The Council, a nonprofit based in London, works with fisheries, seafood companies, researchers, and the public to promote environmentally sound seafood choices.
The flesh of some fish can be toxic, especially long-lived predatory fish, which accumulate dangerous levels of mercury in their tissues. Taras Grescoe recommends the Turtle Island Restoration Project’s Got Mercury? calculator, which gauges mercury safety status based on weight, type of seafood, and the amount eaten . The National Resources Defense Council has a similar calculator in its Mercury Protection Toolbox. Both calculators utilize 2006 data from the EPA and FDA.
Seafood Choices Alliance
The Seafood Choices Alliance is another international organization working across the board—“from fishermen and fish farmers to distributors, wholesalers, retailers and restaurants”—to help make the seafood marketplace more sustainable. The organization’s website allows users to search for restaurants and retailers.
Seafood Watch from the Monterey Bay Aquarium
The Monterey Bay Aquarium is a powerhouse of information and advocacy when it comes to sustainable seafood and environmentally sound oceans. The Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program makes trusted consumer recommendations on which seafood to buy or avoid, and receives a glowing recommendation from Grescoe in the super-informative Bottomfeeder appendix. The program has an e-newsletter, recently updated regional pocket guides, and will also send you information via cell phone.