green fish blue oceans

This is Green Fish Blue Oceans, the podcast where stories about seafood are good for you and the oceans, live now on iTunes, (and while you’re there, please subscribe!) or listen here.

I’m Maureen C. Berry. This week in my A to Z series on Green Fish Blue Oceans, I’ll dish Arctic Char and Anchovies.

But before I jump into the species, I want to share with you where my scientific fish information and research comes from.

  • Seafood Watch is a program of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the gold star in ocean conservation and fisheries research. Seafood Watch helps consumers and businesses make choices for healthy oceans.
  • NOAA Fisheries, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce which conducts environmental research and offers FishWatch, the largest US fish science-based database.
  • Additional resources include Barron’s The New Food Lover’s Companion by Sharon Tyler Herbst and Ron Herbst
  • The Connoisseur’s Guide to Fish & Seafood by Wendy Sweetser
  • James Beard award-winning The Penguin Food Companion to Food by Alan Davidson
  • In addition to copious trust-worthy online resources, I reference Marine Stewardship Council, an international organization that addresses problems associated with unsustainable fisheries, and offers a certification process, and FishChoice, a sustainable seafood sourcing tool.

Couple of thoughts here on this information. None of this information cited is a paid endorsement, nor is this podcast sponsored, FYI. Yet!

Now that all that is out of the way, onto the fish!

So what is Arctic Char?

Arctic Char is a delightful, flavorful, healthy for you fish. It resembles salmon in color, but a tad pinker and trout in terms of flesh. This unique species is both wild and farmed and sold fresh, frozen and canned.

In the wild, arctic char thrive in the icy polar salt waters and like salmon return to the rivers to spawn. Wild arctic char are available in remote Northern areas in the fall, but this species is not considered a viable wild commercial fish due to its geographic isolation. The good news is, this delectable tasting fish is farmed with success.

Arctic Char are raised in a land-based closed container with a recirculation system. So there is no chance for escapement in the wild (like an open net pen system in the ocean) and there is less disease associated with these methods.

Since Arctic Char is fished and farmed sustainably, Seafood Watch, the gold star in sustainable seafood recommendations, rates this fish green! Insert guitar riff for three secs. Wait! You know fish is rated, right? Maybe you’ve noticed over the years that some grocery stores use color coded labels, or maybe you use the Seafood Watch app (because it’s free you know for Android and iPhone). Seafood Watch offers three recommendations. Green for amazing, yellow for moderation and red for just don’t go there. Now the cool thing is, with science-based information and fisheries research, this recommendation list changes. Not often, so don’t get your panties in a wad, but something to be aware of.

Here are a few thoughts about why one species may be green today, but yellow or red the following year. Fish migrate, water temps change, oceans are on the rise. There’s acidification, overfishing, illegal fishing, and unsafe fishing methods—all these things are assessed and analyzed on an ongoing basis to ensure the health and safety of our oceans resources.

Now that you’ve got all that in your pocket, it’s time to shop and cook some Arctic Char.

  • First things first, before you leave the house, don’t forget to bring your cooler bag to the market.
  • Once you’re at the fish counter look for firm flesh, not flaking apart—a sign of aging.
  • Buy four to six ounces per person per serving. Four for lunch or a lighter meal, six if you’re really hungry!
  • If you have a long shopping list, shop for fish last.
  • If you have a longish commute (say over ten minutes or it’s ninety-five degrees outside,) ask for a small bag of ice for transport.
  • Don’t see arctic char at your market? Ask the manager to bring some in.

Arctic Char offers a mild, sweet flavor and is tender and flakey. Arctic Char makes an easy mid-week meal or is perfect for a lazy weekend. And since the fillets are slender, you have little cook time. Either broil, pan sear or my fave, slow roast in the oven.

Ready to cook?

  1. Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
  2. Line a baking sheet with parchment or foil. If you are cooking a whole side of fish, trim the fillet where the natural taper is on the fish, so you have two pieces. That way, when the smaller, thinner piece is done you can remove it and continue roasting the larger portion.
  3. Place the fish skin down on the baking pan. Drizzle a little olive oil over the flesh, rub in. Sprinkle a kiss of kosher salt over the top, add a dash of black pepper, a little garlic powder and a tiny shake of thyme.
  4. Bake in the preheated oven for fifteen minutes or less depending on how thick the center fillet is. A good guideline is ten minutes per inch of fish thickness, but this is only a guide. Oven temperatures vary, fish comes in different sizes. You’re looking for the fish to be warm in the center. Lastly, insert a thermometer into the thickest part of the fish, you don’t want the fish to temp higher than 145 degrees. What happens to fish when it’s overcooked? Oof. Think dry, chalky, chewy. Not good! Less is better friends.
  5. While the fish is in the oven, toss a green salad, steam some rice and heat up a can of black beans. Top with salsa if you want a little heat, and add a dash or two of powdered cumin to the beans while they heat. Got fresh cilantro? Chop up the leaves and toss them around the top of the dish like you’re having a party. Because that’s what your mouth is going to feel like.

Alright! Next up Anchovies!

Okay, true confession time. This is about anchovies remember. I didn’t eat anchovies until 1990 when I was a bright chipper thirty-year-old. I was in Budapest, and after a pint or two of warmish lager, well let’s just say I felt confident! Not that I’m suggesting you wait to travel to a foreign country and drink warm beer to eat anchovies. That would not be a bad thing, though. Okay, I digress. My point is, life is full of experiences and some, like mine all those years ago, left me desiring more of those tiny remarkable oily, salty, savory fishies. Yum! Suddenly, I was eating Cesar salad everywhere I went! Anchovies and crackers? Okay. Cooked down in a red sauce. Oh man.

It’s no secret that anchovies have been coveted and eaten for centuries around the globe.

But that was then and this is now. These days, I never eat anchovies.

Why?

Now, some anchovies fisheries are certified sustainable, (yellow on the SW list based on where they are fished) but there is an environmental issue associated with anchovies that I have a hard time swallowing. And as you know, I take my fish personally and seriously.

I avoid eating anchovies, primarily because the gear used to catch anchovies is a purse seine.

And what’s that?

According to NOAA, a purse seine is a large wall of netting deployed around an entire area or school of fish. Purse seining is a non-selective fishing method that captures everything that it surrounds, including protected species. Once a boat captain finds a school of fish (either by radar, natural observation, think a frenzied flock of birds or with the aid of a helicopter), the boat deploy the net into the water and circles the fish, in essence draping a wall of netting around the school and then cinching up the top ensnaring every species in that purse. So you can see where this is going right? Think turtles who will either get crushed from the weight of the fish or wind up with damaged legs and fins if they don’t escape before the net is cinched.

So why am I talking about a fish that we shouldn’t eat?

Green Fish Blue Oceans podcast is not all tra-la-la and la-dee-da, it’s about awareness and action. The more we know about something, the better our choices and actions are, right? And there is plenty that we don’t know about this fishery. That said, if you are going to eat anchovies, I suggest you follow the Seafood Watch recommendations and send a little extra hard earned cash to get the best anchovies you can afford.

Now, it’s time to send me your thoughts and questions. I would love to know what’s going on in your fish world.

In Episode 2, I’ll tackle Barramundi and Blue Crab Meat.

And I leave you with three things:

Thanks for listening to Green Fish Blue Oceans. Have a great two weeks!

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