A fish story: Navigating seafood choices
Chefs have organized a boycott of Chilean sea bass, which is being depleted. Campaigns to protect fish aren't new, but the real question is: Do they make a difference?
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Even those who are opposed to farming Atlantic salmon are not necessarily against seafood farming altogether. For example, Adler, who is also a cookbook author ("Fish & Shellfish Grilled & Smoked"), often buys farmed catfish from Mississippi. "They have figured out how to do it right," she says. "And the quality is outstanding."Skip to next paragraph
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One has to be a bit skeptical, she adds, of hype about the dangers of fish farms. "You don't know if it's being generated by a competitor or if it's being exaggerated," she explains. "For the most part, I believe fish farms make ecological sense."
When it really comes down to it, says chef Douglass, most people don't think too much about where their restaurant meal comes from. And despite his advocacy of sustainable seafood, he isn't on a mission to educate them. "People are interested in how their meal tastes and how it's prepared," he says. "And I try to make the best decisions possible."
Among those decisions is one to serve mostly fresh, local seafood with the exception of wild Alaskan salmon and halibut. So the Chilean sea bass campaign isn't much of an issue for him.
"I don't like to get fish from so far away, and I never understood the huge appeal [of the fish] anyway," he says.
Douglass is a champion of cod fishermen who catch their fish off the coast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts, using hook-and-line methods instead of gill nets. Critics frown upon the latter, sayingthe nets entangle and kill fish - as well as other marine life - in their webbing, which sits at the ocean bottom.
The hook-and-line method, on the other hand, is an age-old technique where a fish isbrought on board the ship alive, one line and one hook at a time, allowing fishermen to return itto the sea if it istoo small.
Using this approach, which many now call "artisanal" fishing, commercial fishermen who work off the coast of Cape Cod can bring in about 1,500 pounds of cod per day for each boat. Each of the boats typically includes up to three fishermen - a captain and two-man crew. And they don't get slapped with fines for catching fish that are too small.
While Douglass acknowledges that cod stocks are at "dangerously low levels," he supports this method. Fishermen who are rigging with hooks, he explains, are taking only targeted species at the legal size and returning the undersized fish to the sea.
"I believe it's wrongheaded," he says, "not to encourage and support those in the trenches who are trying to do the right thing."
To learn more about current seafood issues and the choices suggested by conservationists, visit these websites:
Atlantic cod: Hook-caught Atlantic cod, Alaskan lingcod, Black cod
Orange roughy: Catfish, Striped bass
Farmed salmon: Wild Alaskan salmon
Shrimp: California trap-caught spot prawns, Atlantic northern pink shrimp, Certified turtle-sage shrimp
Dredged clams: Farmed clams
Dredged mussels: Rope-cultured native mussels
Dredged oysters: Cultured or farmed oysters
Dredged scallops: Farmed scallops
Lobster: Mature farmed crawfish
Striped bass, a well-managed species all along the Atlantic coast, can be used as a substitute for many species of depleted fish, such as black sea bass, Pacific rockfish, groupers, snappers, and Patagonian toothfish (Chilean sea bass).Source: Seafood Lovers Almanac(by National Audubon Society's Living Oceans Program)