Apr 26, 2012

Fish dinners need not always be at the cost of ocean life

Did you know that life on earth originated in the wombs of the ocean?

Early in the earth's history, the atmosphere was thin and could not absorb or reflect the harmful radiations of the Sun. The oceans were the only refuge where fragile life forms could thrive. Oceans thus ensured that life on the earth continue. Over time the atmosphere thickened, life diversified and populated every nook and corner of the earth; today there is not a single place on earth that is devoid of life. Even now, life under the ocean continue to capture our imagination. Mermaids and dolphins. They still beckon us from the deep. The more we know about life under the sea, the more enthralled we get. Our appetite knows no bounds when it comes to the ocean.
Our appetite in fact is so large that it now threatens the very existence of the ocean life. Our desire for seafood, has driven us to excessive and aggressive commercial fishing practices; such practices have not only depleted the marine fish stocks we eat, but also threatens  species that we do not eat but those which are crucial to a healthy marine ecosystem. For example, dolphins that are caught on nets and trawlers, most often get killed. We don't eat the dolphin meat. But we threaten it nonetheless. And dolphins are just one example.
Yes, we are cleaning the ocean of marine life.
More than ninety percent of marine populations--fishes, mammals, coral reefs--are either gone or shall be gone in a few years. So on some evenings when I walk by the beach, I do not see the multiple shades of blue, the breaking surf and the late afternoon sun rays crowning the surf like little jewels. I see the empty ocean bellies. A void we have created by our over zealous appetite for the ocean and its bounty.
Wild seafood is our only direct connection to the ocean and if you think about it, the only wild species we eat. What that means is our choices, habits and desires have a direct impact on the future availability of this delectable food that we enjoy.  Question is can we do something about it or do we just continue with business as usual?

I happen to believe that we can.

Recently the grocery chain, whole foods, has banned several of the over-fished stocks from its market. We need more steps like these by companies. But what about our everyday choices? One that can start with our choice of seafood.  One good source  for all things related to seafood is the website, called the Blue Ocean Institute. The site lists fishes and other marine animals as threatened, vulnerable etc categories. Red and Orange marl categories we want to avoid at all costs. We want to stick to those marked green. And there are plenty and I assure you as a fish snob.
We also want to avoid farmed fish. Farming practices lead to less flavorful fish meat, kills any health benefits associated with a fish based diet and degrades the environment. Did you know that Tilapias are farmed in crowded tanks and fed fish feeds that are full of carcinogens? The dirty water is often dumped into the ocean.
Often times, fresh water wild fishes provide us with a better choice. For example Trouts, Catfish. You can also go with  sea fish like sardines or Branzino or sea bass. I rather eat a good number of grilled wild sardines three days a week, than farmed flavorless Salmon everyday.

Once you find fishes that meet  criteria that protect our health and the ocean, there is not much fun killing the flavor in heavy handed spiciness. Here is a simple technique that works every time.
Dry the fish (ask your fish monger to scale and clean it for you) with some paper towels.Score it on both sizes and rub inside out with some olive oil, pepper and salt. Place it in a skillet or baking tray, surround by aromatics (I love fennel bulbs, onions, tomatoes, carrots, turnips). Drizzle with some olive oil, coarse sea salt, freshly ground black pepper. Bake at 420 F for 30 mins or so.

                             The above is wild caught Trout (check the ratings before you buy)

                                                                The above is sea bass

The ocean does not have to feed our desires. With a hint of common sense and a interest in creativity, we can choose to please our palates with whatever is still available

Happy eating and healthy living!


Jay said...

wow..wat a great post..
first time here...lovely space you have
nice presentation with inviting cliks
happy following you..;)
do stop by mine sometime
Tasty Appetite

Ansh said...

Trout and sea bass are my favorite fish to eat.I loved this article. Great writing as usual too :)