Welcome to the I is for Ice part of the program. This episode is packed with information about ice—I’m going to talk for a few minutes about the relationship between ice and seafood, then I’m going to tell you a story about the first time I saw a glacier in the French Alps. I’ll finish up with glacier ice.
In the IUCN part of the program, we’ll explore the high seas and what is being done now to protect this mostly unchartered area.
It’s no secret that ice and seafood go together.
Hit up any grocery store or fish market and you’ll see what I mean—whole fish and shellfish are buried in shaved ice. Kudos to anyone in the shaved ice machine business. So since seafood decomposes quickly once it is brought out of the water, Ice is critical to maintaining freshness and flavor. But ice also slows bacterial growth.
On a sustainable fishing vessel, the fish are held in containers with ice. Some of those massive trawlers are out on the high seas for weeks and months. Think of the ice! Now think about what no ice means for the fish. Seafood pirates or those fishing for illegal, unreported unregulated fishing aren’t super concerned about whether there’s enough ice for the fish. Hell, some of the illegal fishing captains aren’t are even concerned about the humans on board.
The moral of the story?
Know where your fish comes from.
Now when you are shopping for fish at the market, remember to bring your cooler bag (and if you’re really awesome, bring a few frozen gel packs from home), or ask the person behind the fish counter for a small bag of ice for transport.
Once you get your fish home, you should not store your fish on ice.
But do keep your fish in the coldest part of the refrigerator. Usually the back.
And if you aren’t going to cook that day or the next, toss it in the freezer in the same package that you brought it home.
So, I was thirty years old during the early winter of 1991 when I traveled from the Florida Keys where I lived and managed a 64-seat run down diner, to ski the French Alps.
It was for the first time I was awed by the beauty of aquamarine-colored glacial ice.
After a few days swooshing down the slopes in Chamonix, my fiancé at the time and I began our day trip to Aiguille du Midi and Vallee Blanche, considered by some to be the most famous off-piste ski run in the world. Now. You might like to know, I was a beginner skier. This wasn’t Everest, but Vallee Blanche is over 12,000 feet altitude and one of the tallest mountains I’d ever skied.
We rode the tram to the mountaintop in Chamonix. There were maybe thirty or so people in our group, but there were many groups skiing that day and every day. We boarded the cable car that would carry us to the twelve-mile run. Thirty minutes later we arrived at the most gorgeous site I had ever witnessed. The snow was a brilliant white and went on for an eternity.
At this point, there was no turning back. The only way down was to ski the glacier and the mountain.
I was terrified, but my ego and pride kept me grounded.
In groups of ten, tethered only by a small rope tied around our waists, we set off down a set of steep steps that had been carved into the snowy mountainside. Just like the thing the kind of mountaineering you see on National Geographic.
I held my ski poles in my left hand and held or maybe clutched is a better word a thick rope with my right hand. A sheer drop off lay to my right. Untouched snow glistened like diamonds in the morning sun. The guides carried our skis. Two guides per group of ten or maybe twelve. I can’t rememeber.
When I arrived at the bottom of the steps, a vast white flat plain spread before my eyes for as far as I could see. It was early morning and puffs of smoke from our breathing filled the air as we guides untied us and told us about our day journey back down the mountain. “Stay with the group. If you start to lose control (God forbid—my inner voice although Lord knows I probably muttered it out loud), snow plow. hard. Do not try to be a hero and help your fellow skiers.” I didn’t think at this level of skiing that someone would be foolish enough to ski away from the tour.
But sometimes fate has its way no matter what one’s intentions are.
Just before lunch, a woman in my group lost control. I was near her when it happened. My gut impulse was to reach out and grab her. I’m sure I held out my pole and probably said hey or something vague. It’s hard to remember because the whole day seemed surreal like I was on my own Nat Geo adventure. And I might have said hey under my breath. I know for a fact I planted my poles as deep in the hard-packed surface as I could and froze.
Then the guide’s voice boomed across the vast wilderness. “Snow plow, snow plow, snow plow.” Skis cut across the ice after her. He could only stop her by skiing ahead of her and digging his skis sideways onto the mountainside. She skied directly into him. Knocked him down. The second guide swooshed in to help.
I was horrified. That feeling of helplessness was unnerving.
I remember being shaken to my core. I had no desire to be near her as if her mere presence was bad luck. I felt sorry for her. I was mad at her. Mad for marring my day with her what? carelessness. I don’t think I was the only person that felt that way. Maybe I was. The thing is, it could have happened to any of us. But this is the woman who swooshed down the slopes with grace earlier in the week with my fiancé when I waffled at the top of the mountain. Afraid to ride the moguls down. Only moving when they turned at the bottom and were out of sight. So I was jealous too. And so my fiancée, a generous man, was the bigger person. Kind. Mature. We sat with the woman at lunch. She was visibly shaken. He skied close to her after lunch and for the remainder of the day. I stayed away.
I stayed away.
I knew the dangers of extreme skiing on the glacier. It was the thrill of the unknown. The excitement of conquering my fears.
Later that afternoon, as we walked uphill in a single file with our skies on our shoulders, an avalanche exploded across the valley. You hear it and think, what was that? But in your gut. You already know. And then you pray for survivors.
The back side down the mountain was sloppy, wet, heavy snow. Huge trees loomed everywhere. This was where I was afraid I’d get hurt.
I ended my journey in the mud at the bottom of the hill. The shadows were long. The air warmer. I was exhausted and exhilarated. I unlocked my ski bindings and was awash in emotions and sensations—wanted to kiss the ground and cry. My calves ached with relief.
I headed toward the yellow school bus that took would take me back to the hotel. My fiancée and the woman were on the bus, laughing and talking. I plopped into an empty seat. Waved. She waved back. A grateful enthusiastic wave. He hands were crippled with arthritis. I wondered if that was why she couldn’t stop herself. I felt a pang of regret for feeling so mean toward her. My fiancée blew me an air kiss. I could tell by the expression on his face he was proud of me. For making it down the hill alone. I leaned back in my seat and shut my eyes.
I leaned back in my seat and shut my eyes.
A snapshot of that glacier—a wall of sea-blue ice filled my dreams.
So what does a glacier have to do with seafood?
Welcome back to the I is for IUCN part of the program. Before I move on, what did you think about the last part of the program? You know since I’m still a newbie to podcasting, I wanted to try out something a little different. Hit me up on Facebook. I’d love your feedback.
Did you know that glacial ice covers ten percent of the earth’s surface? That ice includes glaciers, ice caps, and ice sheets like Greenland and Antarctica.
That ice includes glaciers, ice caps, and ice sheets like Greenland and Antarctica.
Glaciers contain about seventy-five percent of the earth’s fresh water. Water that isn’t available to us.
When scientists talk about the glaciers melting, they’re mostly talking about sea ice around Greenland and the Artic. Sea ice is frozen ocean water. It is critical to the health of our planet because it influences climate, wildlife, and people who live in the Arctic according to NSIDC.
So how do we know the ice is melting?
Scientists use satellites to measure the ice melt. But have only measured sea ice since 1979.
I can assure you if you’ve ever seen a glacier and many of you have been to Alaska I’m sure or done some mountain climbing, you wouldn’t think that a little melting ice would make a difference. But this is me, a layman talking. Scientists know better.
There is much to learn yet about what the future will hold. One thing is certain, we cannot go on with business as usual.
Enter IUCN, the International Union of the Conservation of Nature.
Fifteen themes. One that might interest you is the Marine and Polar theme. Two key spotlights in that theme are a Walter Shoals high seas expedition going on right now. Walters shoal lies 700 miles south of Madagascar. And the twenty-six-day expedition’s focus is to understand the ecosystems of the high seas to help build laws to govern these fragile resources. Right now there are no laws governing the high seas in terms of fishing, traffic, pollution or conservation.
The second spotlight at IUCN in the Marine and Polar theme is a 450-page report titled, Explaining Ocean Warming: Causes, scale, effects and consequences
Now I don’t expect you will read the entire report, but there is a link in the Show Notes if you dare. Bottom line?
There are seven recommendations in conclusion from the need for global policy action to updated risk assessments to economic analysis. But at the heart of it all is the effect of CO2 emissions. We must address the ocean in all parts when we talk about climate change. From the melting glaciers to the deep dark trenches at the ocean bottom and every marine species and ecosystem in between. “Change is already underway and already locked in for future decades,” according to the IUCN report.
Change may not be obvious because we can’t see it, but it can be altered. And it’s up to us to make that change flow in a more positive direction. I’m wearing a tee short today from Phipps Conservatory that says If not us, who? If not now, when?
I think the tee says it all. Don’t you?
Need an idea about what you can do now?
Head over to IUCN website.
Sign up for its newsletter, find a job, become a member, join a commission.
Or on a tangible level, plant a tree.
That’s a wrap. Thanks for listening to GFBO. Don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes or Google Play.
What is a gooey duck? And why is it pronounced gooey duck (GOO-ee duhk) when it’s spelled g-e-o-duck?
Geoduck is a bivalve, a burrowing clam. And according to Smithsonian, the name geoduck comes from the Nisqually Indian gweduc, which means “dig deep.” The geoduck clam uses its tiny foot to burrow into the seafloor and sand as it grows.
The first time I saw geoduck was in 2006. I was eating lunch in Sushi Tomi, a sushi bar with a very good reputation, but not so good location. In fact, I remember being dubious when my friend Belen told me about Sushi Tomi. I was familiar with the area and it didn’t strike me as the place for good sushi. Next to a Wal-Mart? Hmm.
But it was the chef that made the place, not the location, she insisted.
The joint was nothing special—a small space with a dozen or so bistro tables, a few booths along the walls, and half a dozen bar stools at the sushi bar. There was one seat at the sushi bar that day. I saddled up to a display of fish—blood red tuna, octopus, salmon, and wait, what is that?
A beige phallic-looking, almost grotesque creature was wedged in the corner of the sushi display. A large rubber band was wrapped around its shell.
It was a geoduck.
So of course I ordered some! Although I DO love clams in general. But this was something else. I might have been fascinated more than anything.
Chef nodded to me, a knowing approval. He sliced three slivers, and I mean slivers. Drizzled a little oil over the top, a kiss of salt and that was it.
The clam hit my tongue and I was transported to the Pacific Ocean. Big surf, briny water. Geoduck does have a slightly chewy texture, or course, it’s a clam, but it is also super tender and a little nutty in flavor.
This is not the clam to chop up and make clam chowder or fritters. You want to eat clam crudo or ceviche.
Where can you find geoduck?
You can find geoduck in the Pacific Northwest, think Washington State and British Columbia, but related species are also found from Argentina to New Zealand and Japan.
Geoduck is a burrowing clam. Its shell is soft and averages around six inches. Its neck or siphon can grow as long as three feet. The clam weighs about two to three pounds on average but can grow up to fourteen pounds. Undoubtedly the most unusual thing about this species is its appearance. Its neck looks like an elephant trunk growing out of its shell.
So what’s the sustainable status of a geoduck?
Well, good news friends.
Seafood Watch and Environmental Defense Find rate Geoduck best choice and a good alternative. No red labels on this species! Geoduck populations are healthy and the method of harvest doesn’t harm the habitat. Clam diggers use a handheld water jet called a stinger, to extract the clams from the sand. There’s a YouTube link in the show notes so you can see Geoduck harvesting in
There’s a YouTube link in the show notes so you can see Geoduck harvesting in action. I also included a YouTube video showing how a Geoduck is cleaned and served in Japan. Pretty cool stuff.
So where can you buy geoduck?
Taylor Shellfish Farms in Washington State ships live farmed geoduck for $35 per pound plus shipping. And remember the minimal weight of a geoduck clam is two pounds. And if you’re thinking $70 per clam, Who’d buy that?
Get this. Taylor Shellfish harvests and ships about 700,000 clams annually. Most of it goes to China. Clearly, Geoduck farming is a huge business.
You should know that even those the seafood recommendations guides give geoduck a good rating, there are some environmental concerns regarding commercial geoduck clamming. PVC pipes and nets float away, storms toss the netting ashore, the farming itself disrupts other marine creatures and birds who rely on that habitat.
But for now, your best bet is to find that awesome sushi bar and enjoy.
Let’s take a quick break and I’ll be right back with G if for Grouper.
Welcome to G is for Grouper part of the program.
If you’ve ever been to Florida, any of the Gulf coast states or any of the islands in the Caribbean, I’m betting you ate a grouper sandwich. Or twenty.
Pan seared or grilled with a kiss of salt, pepper and olive oil, topped with a dollop of garlic aioli and nestled between a warm, soft toasted bun takes me straight back to blue skies, soft sandy beaches, and palm trees. Just add Jimmy Buffet and an icy Margarita. Hello, grouper sandwich.
I’m sure I ate more grouper than any other species of fish when I lived in the Florida Keys for ten years. And I can assure you, I was not the only one.
Grouper is meaty and tender. Mild and sweet.
And grouper makes for more than just an uh-mazing fish sandwich. It’s a versatile fish and because of its meaty texture and thick flakes, grouper is suited for the oven, the grill, or the stovetop.
Most of the grouper I ate back in the day was either black or red, the two most common grouper species in Florida at the time. There were other species like the gag, scamp, yellowmouth, yellowfin, and the great goliath grouper to mention a few.
In fact, there are over 400 species of grouper!
And when you’ve ever fished for grouper, you know how tough a fight these squat slow moving fish can be. They like to burrow under rocks and let me tell you, I’ve cut more lines because a stubborn grouper just wouldn’t budge. But when you do land a grouper, it is party time.
Now it’s worth noting that ecologists and fishermen agree, that many grouper populations are threatened by overfishing.
So how do you know which grouper to buy?
First, it’s important to know which grouper species not to buy.
According to both Seafood Watch and Environmental Defense Fund, Warsaw, snowy, yellow edge and longline-caught gag grouper are poor choices because of overfishing and declines populations.
Fortunately, trusted grocery stores like Whole Foods Market, The Fresh Market and Trader Joe’s label the fish.
So here’s another thing to be aware of at the market.
Since domestic grouper is in short supply, the price of grouper will be high. And I know that’s a relative term, so don’t be shocked at $20-25 per pound prices. If you see grouper on the market for a considerably lower price, it isn’t domestic grouper. It may be imported grouper or it may not be grouper at all.
For years, the food service industry has been dealing with a copycat fish, called basa, an Asian catfish that resembles grouper in appearance. You might see it label swai in the market in the frozen aisle. And the way the restaurants get around that is to call it a “fish sandwich” not a “grouper sandwich”. Of course, any time you see fish sandwich on a menu, the fish could be any white-fleshed species. But restaurateurs who value transparency and ethics will let you know what you’re eating.
You know with the demand for fresh fish sandwiches, basa appeared to be a winner because not only is it a white fish, basa costs much less. And if you didn’t know, restaurants operate on super slim profit margins.
There’s hope though. While seafood fraud, in general, has been going on for decades, and for those illegal and unscrupulous fishermen and brokers trying to dupe customers and the industry, chefs, scientists, innovation, and technology are working to change the tides.
For instance, the University of South Florida scientists developed a hand-held device called Grouper Chek which identifies the type of fish you’re eating. And while this system is not available for the consumer, it’s the perfect tool for the supply chain distribution and chefs where much of the challenges lie.
So here’s another way to tell what type of grouper you’re buying other than what’s on the label.
There is a distinct difference between the color of the flesh of a black grouper compared to a red grouper. Black grouper has bright white flesh and the flesh of a red grouper while still a white fish imparts a delicate pinkish hue to its flesh. And the reason you want to learn to notice this difference is because black grouper is more generally more expensive than red grouper.
Now if you don’t want to eat grouper or never see it at the market, but still want a meaty thick white fish sandwich, try red snapper or mahi-mahi as a sustainable substitute.
So much of what defines sustainable seafood has to do with where your fish comes from and the method of catch. Sustainable seafood is one that is good for you and the oceans.
Now if you find grouper at the end of your rod or at the market and need a recipe, I added two links in the show notes. One offers 54 grouper recipes from some of the best Florida restaurants. And the other is a Pinterest grouper recipe roundup for your inspiration.
Remember to store your fish in the coldest part of the refrigerator and cook it within a day or two. Otherwise, pop it in the freezer and thaw it in the refrigerator 24 hours prior to cooking.
Got a question? Hit me up on FB, Twitter, Instagram, or LinkedIn.
That’s a wrap for this episode.
Next up, H is for Halibut and Habitat.
And don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes or Google Play so you don’t miss an episode.
Thanks for listening to Green Fish Blue Oceans. And have a great two weeks.
Did you know by 2050 with our growing global population, we will need seven percent more protein to feed the world than we have today?
Some of that protein will be farmed fish and some will be fake fish.
Welcome to the F is for Farmed Fish part of the program. Today we’ll explore what farmed fish or aquaculture is, what types of farming are practiced, best edible seafood species to farm, some aquaculture challenges, and lastly success stories in aquaculture around the world.
What is aquaculture?
Aquaculture, or farmed fish, is the rearing and harvesting of fish in water environments for human consumption.
Now anyone who knows me knows I believe that aquaculture will help feed our growing global population, reduce the stresses on wild fish populations while restoring habitats, and will strengthen our food security too. Aquaculture, when done right provides an energy-efficient, hi-protein, low-fat resource.
There are numerous methods of fish farming or aquaculture
Recirculating aquaculture systems known as RAS in the industry
Open ocean pens
Racks and lines (oysters, scallops, mussels, algae)
Ponds (shrimp, tilapia, mullet and bream)
Sea ranching (scallops and cucumbers)
Some farming methods are better than others. But because the list is long and time is limited, if you would like to know more about a specific farming method, shoot me an email. But know this, 95 percent of aquaculture is done in ponds. In the US, 85 percent of aquaculture is done in a RAS.
Of the hundreds of edible seafood’s, which are the best to farm?
Shellfish, clams, oysters, mussels (all filter feeders leaving the water in better shape than before)
Crustaceans (shrimp—the world’s most beloved seafood)
Did you know that 50 percent of all fish consumed is farmed? And friends, that number is only going to rise.
And since 50 percent of all fish is farmed and our global population is growing, the need for successful aquaculture is literally a matter of life and death.
Now aquaculture has been around for over 4000 years, first developed in China. In the US, the aquaculture industry blossomed in the 1970s. But not without its challenges.
So what are the challenges of farmed fish?
One of the biggest challenges with aquaculture is fish feed. Both the ingredient list and the FIFO, or the fish in fish our ratio.
Fish need protein. And lots of it. Much of that feed ingredient comes from wild fisheries in the form of fish oil and fishmeal and from pelagic species like anchovies and sardines.
Wild fisheries that we are overfishing.
So here’s a little something to chew on before I dive into the challenges of farmed fish feed.
We already know that 90 percent of the large fisheries, shark, whales, Pacific Blue Fin tuna have collapsed. Wild Atlantic salmon and New England cod are two prime examples of a species that were fished to near extinction. In the last fifty years, fifty-one marine species are extinct due to overfishing.
Overfishing is at a crisis level.
We’re depleting wild fish species to feed farmed fish!
Yeah. That’s crazy, right?
Fortunately, that’s changing for the better. We’ll look at some solutions in a few minutes.
But let’s dig in a little more about the feed.
Fish are the most efficient converters of food to flesh. Or fish in fish out called FIFO in the industry. Most farmed fish are in the FIFO range of 3:1 to 1:1, the latter being the most efficient end of the scale—one pound of feed in equals one pound of fish out.
So how does that compare to other farmed protein industries? Called Feed Conversion Ratio in other industries, beef is 9:1, pork 6:1, chicken, 2:1, and crickets, or insects are 1.5:1.
What are some other challenges with aquaculture?
Antibiotics are used to eliminate diseases. But that creates a problem with superbugs. There’s also waste to dispose of, escapement in the case of ocean-farmed fish. There are production costs and pollution in the form of carbon emissions in land-based farmed systems. Human slavery is still a problem in the farmed fish industry in Thailand for instance.
So where’s the good news?
Technology and innovation have improved the farmed fish business and that will only continue to improve.
For the last several years, scientists, chemists, biologists, chefs, engineers, food disruptors and farmers are working to change the fish feed landscape and the aquaculture industry.
Innovation will enable fish feed to be made from microbes, algae, yeast, soy, seaweeds, and insects. There is already a vegan fish feed on the market. Technology will make farming operations more efficient and safer.
To date, the most efficient and productive success story takes place in Southern Spain on an island in the river, ten miles inland from the ocean. La Veta La Palma is a premier example of sustainable aquaculture in a natural setting. This 28,000-acre farm developed an artificial wetland habitat by converting ponds and restructuring the water flow. They raise sea bass, bream, mullet and shrimp. They farm rice and developed dry crops. The farm is so productive it attracts over 200 species of migratory birds many of which are endangered making this a natural paradise. There are no antibiotics used or GMO’s.
Australis Barramundi (aka seabass) in Massachusetts
TwoXSea farms trout in California using vegan feed
Kampachi Farms yellowtail, a sashimi grade fish in open pens in Hawaii
Verlasso Salmon farms Atlantic salmon in Chile using a yeast compound feed that mimics Omega 3s eliminating the need for wild fish oils and byproduct
Langsand Lax in Denmark is the largest land-based salmon farm in the world. They use a highly efficient recirculation system. Earlier this month, they got full approval to build a land-based salmon facility in Florida, the first of its kind in the US
Blue Ridge Aquaculture in Virginia is the largest land-based tilapia farm in the world using RSA, fresh never frozen, no antibiotics
Food Chain in Lexington, KY is an educational facility that farms tilapia and greens in a hydroponics system
There are fish farms in high rise buildings in Hong Kong and on a Wisconsin dairy farm. There are fish farms in wastewater treatment facilities in Kentucky. There is no shortage of opportunities to farm fish wherever you live.
The future of farmed fish and land-based fish farms will increase in our future. And while many operations are successful, plenty are not. And not all land-based farms are the superstar darlings of sustainable fisheries just yet. The cost to operate these facilities can be three times that of an ocean pen farming operation because of licenses, equipment and facilitates. Other challenges are maintaining water temperatures, oxygen levels, PH levels, and high carbon outputs.
So why continue to farm fish?
Fewer fish die and fish grow faster
There is little need for antibiotics (b/c everything is controlled).
Fish waste can be recycled for compost to grow vegs or produce electricity.
Plus, it’s good business.
Remember, wild fisheries will be depleted if we don’t supplement fish stocks with aquaculture.
Is farmed fish safe to eat?
Yes and no. In the US, we have strict environmental and food safety regulations, so if you live in the US, you will support the American farmers and the economy.
Think about this. In the US, nearly 90 percent of our seafood is imported. Only 2.5 to 3 percent of that seafood is inspected at the docks. Some countries do not practice good food safety laws.
If you love fish like I do, ask questions, like where does my fish come from? Read the package labels at the market. Follow trusted recommendation guides like Seafood Watch and Environmental Defense Fund.
Alright, that’s it for farmed fish.
F is for Faux Fish
It’s no secret that there are seven billion people living on thirty percent of the earth’s surface. And that growth is expected to continue to nine billion by 2050, eleven billion by the end of this century. Seems like a long way off, but to put it into perspective, think about yourselves for a few seconds. Where will you be in 2050? What about their kids, your grandchildren? What kind of world will they be living in? What will they be eating?
So with all this talk of protein, just how much protein do we really need in our daily diets?
According to the US Dept of Agriculture, an average 130-pound female needs forty-seven grams of protein per day. For a 170-pound male, sixty-two grams is recommended.
As I mentioned earlier, an increasing population needs more protein and one of those highly sought after proteins is fish.
Fish farming is not the only solution to solve our growing global protein needs and save our wild fish populations.
Enter Faux Fish
That’s right, plant-based fish products.
Venture capitalists have a term for the people and companies developing faux fish. They’re called Food Industry Disruptors—or those foods that replace conventional animal agriculture.
So how does that work?
Well the most important criteria for any good food is texture and taste, right?
Well, it’s not rocket science. But it is chemistry. And technology using mass spectrometry and texture sensors. It’s innovation. It’s students, nutritionists, biochemists, engineers, and chefs.
Currently, there are several plant-based seafood products being tested on the market and more products being developed in the lab.
Plant-based products are made from quinoa, seitan, mushrooms, yellow pea proteins, seaweed, nuts and high-quality soy.
New Wave Foods makes PopShrimp shrimp made from algae
Tomato Sushi offers sushi made from tomatoes that looks like tuna
There is Tofuna Fysh which makes fysh oil and fysh sauce.
Sophie’s Kitchen in California makes a line of shelf-stable, refrigerated and frozen vegan seafood items made from konjac, a mineral-rich plant that has almost zero calories and is high in dietary fiber. They offer Smoked Salmon, scallops, mac n cheese, jambalaya, and its most popular retail item is The Vegan Toona. Coming soon Glazed Salmon bacon!
Veggie World in the UK makes its award-winning vegan prawns.
Gardein in the US makes fishless filets and crabless cakes.
While faux fish made still be in its infancy, it is a growing industry. The Plant-based food industry contributes $13.7 billion dollars to the US economy alone. Jobs generated in the industry offer an annual income of $59,400. But that figure includes other plant-based products in the meat, chicken and dairy categories.
So I should add that I haven’t tried any of these products nor am I doing a product endorsement. Not that I don’t want to. I am eager to try any faux fish product, so if you’re a food disruptor and you would like to connect and collaborate, please send me a message. For the record, I did try cricket bars for the first time and found them to be earthy, chewy, nutty and sweet. I am game!
There is no better time in our history to be a sustainable food disruptor whether you want to farm fish, develop faux fish or just enjoy delicious food that is good for you and the oceans.
Thanks for listening to Green Fish Blue Oceans. Don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes or Google Play so you don’t miss an episode.
What is escolar? Why should you care? Where can you find it and should you eat it? There are two types of ecosystems, marine and terrestrial. Today I’m going to talk about one specific marine ecosystem, coral reefs.
E is for Escolar
Let’s start out by answering a seemingly innocuous question.
What is escolar?
Well, get ready, because there is nothing simple about this fish.
In fact, escolar might be one of the most delicious and dangerous fish in the ocean.
Here are some basics.
Escolar is a large fast-swimming fish found in warm tropic and temperate climates. In the US, think Florida and Hawaii. Escolar is also called walu walu, Hawaiian butterfish, waloo, or white tuna.
Escolar has a firm, rich, oily flesh making it an irresistible and delectable catch. However, that oily content is where the danger lies. Since the escolar’s diet consists of food high in wax esters and escolar have a tough time digesting wax esters, its flesh is super oily.
And super oily fish can be a problem for many consumers.
Note, If you want to know more about wax esters, check out the link in the show notes.
So should you eat escolar?
That’s a personal choice. It is a buttery, melt in your mouth fish. And you may want to gobble it up!
But if you do? You need to know a few things first.
First, the most important thing to know is, where your fish comes from and who your boat captain is. And trust him or her. Not only is that smart business, but you will have no doubt about what you are buying and eating.
Second, only eat six ounces of escolar or less. Period. Do not be a little piggy at the sushi bar.
And now I need to give you a warning.
What you’re about to hear in the next few minutes will either make you laugh or you will be repulsed. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Overconsumption of escolar can lead to abdominal cramps and diarrhea. I’m talking about spending serious time in the bathroom. Think an oily yellowish-orange hot mess. Seriously! This could happen as soon as 30 minutes after eating and last for days. Or worse you could just fart that oily liquid unexpectedly. I am not kidding. This shit happens.
How do I know?
It happened to me. Fortunately, I was at home.
Escolar is called the Ex-lax fish for a reason.
Now if you’re still with me, thank you for hanging and hopefully laughing!
Alright so beyond the oily issue, what else can be said about escolar?
We need to address the reason escolar is being sold on the market if it’s such a problem fish. Well, it’s no secret the seafood industry needs to do something about overfishing. And so there is a huge push to encourage consumers to eat under loved fish. Now I am all about selling underloved seafood. It’s a terrific way to help curb overfishing and selling underloved fish supports small-scale fishermen and communities.
As you probably guessed, escolar is one of those under-loved species—Also the good news is it’s abundant and inexpensive.
But something else needs to be addressed too.
Sometimes escolar is mislabeled and called white tuna. So not only is this inherently wrong, but there are health consequences like those mentioned a few moments ago.
So why would escolar be called anything other than escolar?
Aaaand this is the slippery part of the story.
So first of all, to a chef’s credit, they may be unaware that what they’re buying is escolar. Many chefs don’t buy whole fish, so at the receiving end, they wouldn’t necessarily be able to tell the difference between escolar or white tuna. Also, not all chefs do the receiving at the restaurant. Sometimes the dishwasher signs the invoice pops the fish in the cooler and goes back to loading the machine. Without checking the fish. I like to think this is a rare occasion, but I’ve seen more of my share of, um, Anthony Bourdain type events in my twenty-three years of working in the food industry. If you recall, Bourdain’s memoir, Kitchen Confidential was an expose of what happens behind the scenes in the back of the house.
Now the fault doesn’t necessarily lie with the distributor either. Sometimes the fish is packaged incorrectly and is delivered from the docks with the wrong label. Fish processing is done by humans, not robots.
That’s not to say there are no unscrupulous people.
There are indeed duplicitous fishermen and business people in the world. We have modern day pirates, slavery and murder in the seafood industry. But that’s a story for another episode.
Now the other thought I have about escolar being called something other than escolar is a marketing issue.
So think about this. Which of the following two descriptions sound more appetizing?
You’re sitting in a restaurant, sipping wine, stomach growling. The server reads off the daily special:
“Today’s fish special is Grilled Escolar with a Ginger-turmeric Glaze with roasted Sugar Snap Peas.”
Okay, so prior to this podcast, you don’t know what escolar is and you ask the server. So he either knows, or he returns to the kitchen in search of an answer, or worse he takes an order from a six top then heads to the kitchen for your answer, at which point your spouse is glaring because you sent the server away.
Or his daily special sounds like this:
“Today’s fish special is Grilled Hawaiian Walu Walu with a Ginger-turmeric Glaze with roasted Sugar Snap Peas.
See what I mean? Who doesn’t want Hawaiian fish? It sounds exotic!
Now if you order escolar, remember don’t eat more than six ounces, or about the size of a deck of cards and you should be fine. And no more than four pieces of sushi. However, if you have stomach issues in general, you’re not going to love escolar at all.
Now if you see escolar in the display at the grocery, here are a few buying tips.
At the market, the flesh should be firm, white (not gray) and not flaking apart.
The fish should smell fresh like the ocean. Don’t be shy about asking to smell your fish. It’s your money! And health.
Once home, store the fish in the coldest part of the refrigerator which is generally the back.
Remove the skin before cooking.
And probably the best way to cook escolar is either on the grill or seared in a hot skillet on the stovetop.
Lastly, worth noting you won’t find escolar at the market in many countries. For instance, Japan and Italy banned escolar. And many countries advise against its consumption because of its supposed toxicity. Escolar like mahi-mahi, shark, tuna and other mackerel species, can also contain histamines, a type of bacterial food toxin, if not handled and stored properly. In the US, escolar is not banned.
So to wrap up, sometimes just knowing is the best news of the day.
E is for Ecosystems
So when you don’t live near the ocean, theirs is plenty to think about other than what’s happening below the surface. Unless you work in the industry or are a seafood nerd, right? But you probably have seen the ocean. Some of you have snorkeled or are certified scuba divers.
I’m going to fill you in on how I connected with the oceans and coral reefs and then we’ll dive in to discover some amazing things about coral reefs, a few challenges, and some solutions.
So, Wyland, the American artist known for his famous outdoor murals featuring whales and other sea creatures, said, “all of us, at one time or another, find ourselves drawn to the sea.”
And for me, that moment was during the summer of 1975. I was fourteen years old when Mom and four of my sisters drove from our hometown of Pittsburgh, PA to Ocean City, MD. Once I saw the deep blue water on the horizon and dug my toes into the sand and felt the cool wetness beneath the hot surface at the beach, I knew that one day I would live near the ocean.
And while I had many other beach vacations over the years, it took another fourteen years before I moved to Florida where I lived and worked for the next twenty-three years.
For the first ten years, I managed a breakfast and lunch restaurant in the Florida Keys. When I wasn’t slinging bacon and eggs, I fished for tuna, wahoo, and mahi-mahi on the open sea, grouper and snapper along the canals and in the backcountry, tarpon, and cobia under the Seven Mile Bridge. I snorkeled in the warm turquoise waters along the Florida reef where a 3D technicolor world of brightly colored corals and tropical fish coexistence with sharks and barracudas, sea cucumbers and eels.
And all those years I snorkeled up and down the Florida reef, throughout the Bahamas, in the Turks & Caicos, even the Red Sea at the tip of Israel, I never went scuba diving. Mostly because at that time, I was an avid mountain snow skier and without unlimited funds and time, I opted for the best of both worlds. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have an appreciation for what lies in deep blue sea, it just means I rely on photographers and explorer’s who do travel down to the deepest parts of the ocean to color my stories.
One of the most famous and prolific ocean divers of our time is American biologist and ocean conservationist Sylvia A. Earle.
Sylvia is my ocean hero. And if you are familiar with her work, then I’m betting she is yours too.
So what has Sylvia’s seventy years of diving and ocean conservation shown us about the coral reefs around the world?
First, let’s dive into what a coral reef is and its significance is to the health of our blue world.
Coral reefs are the most diverse of all the marine ecosystems. They cover less than one percent of the earth’s surface yet one-quarter of all marine species rely on coral reefs for food and shelter.
According to the Smithsonian, “The value of coral reefs has been estimated at 30 billion U.S. dollars and perhaps as much as 172 billion U.S. dollars each year, providing food, protection of shorelines, jobs based on tourism, and even medicines.”
Coral reefs survive natural destruction like tsunamis and hurricanes but may not survive man-made destruction like global C02 emissions and warming ocean temperatures.
Yet according to WWF, we have lost almost 30 percent of the world’s coral reefs.
80 percent of the coral species in the Caribbean have been destroyed. The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is the largest reef in the world and is visible from space. But the GBR is in trouble.
The Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is the largest reef in the world and is visible from space. But the GBR is in trouble.
Humans are responsible for much of the destruction of coral reefs—think plastic pollution, overfishing, ocean acidification and the introduction of lionfish, an invasive species which I’ll discuss later in the year under L is for Lionfish & Lobster.
So what is being done to protect this beautiful otherworldly environment?
Well, some species will survive and thrive adapting to these changes. Scientists propose solutions from building shade panels over reefs to adding lime to the water to gardening new manmade reefs to attract fish and providing food and habitat for many marine species.
Scientists propose solutions from building shade panels over reefs
Adding lime to the water
Gardening new manmade reefs to attract fish and providing food and habitat for many marine species.
Mostly, though, it’s up to us to make changes today for our children’s futures.
So last thoughts and a quick note about my ocean hero, Sylvia Earle and her mission. Sylvia created the Mission Blue Alliance. She also created designated Hope Spots, those places around the world that are critical for the health of our planet.
Watch Sylvia’s TED Talk (link below) to find out more about this special program. And then head over to Mission Blue and vote to designate your favorite Hope Spot.
Use whatever resources you have to spread the word about what is happening to our beautiful blue planet and oceans.
Share this podcast with your family and friends and on your social media.
And when you enjoy a day at the beach and dig your toes into the sand, remember that our earth relies on you and your choices to keep that ocean water underneath the surface of the beach cool and healthy.
Thanks for listening.
Next up F is for Farmed Fish & Faux Fish.
Yes, there is such a thing! Don’t forget to subscribe to Green Fish Blue Oceans on iTunes or Google Play so you don’t miss an episode.
Listen to C is for Clams and Climate Change here or download on iTunes or Google Play. (And don’t forget to subscribe!)
Hey and welcome to Green Fish Blue Oceans. I’m your host, Maureen Berry.
On today’s program, I’ll tackle clams and climate change. Two incredibly topics which as you can imagine have a lot to do with each other.
C is for Clams
Did you know that farmed clams make up to 90 percent of the world’s clam consumption?
This is terrific news. Clams are easy on the environment, improve the water quality since they are filter feeders and are managed most efficiently.
Farmed clams are raised on beaches (then raked, shoveled or hand selected), grown in suspended nets in the open ocean or bays, raceways, or raised in cages in the ocean. As a result, farmed clams get the high five from sustainable seafood recommendations like Seafood Watch and Environmental Defense Fund.
You’ll find clams at the market in a variety of ways.
Canned, frozen clam meat, frozen in the shell, live clams, either fresh-shucked meat or in the shell.
So how do you know what to buy?
It depends on what’s available in your market and what you can afford.
Hard shell clams (littlenecks, cherrystones, middle neck and chowder clams) are the most popular consumed clams eaten in the US and will be the clams you see at the market and in restaurants.
Clams are low in fat. High in Vitamin B-12, C, Iron, Omega-3s, and protein.
Clams take very little time to cook. In fact, overcooking will make them chewy and rubbery.
Canned meat is already cooked. If you buy frozen clam meat, there is no need to thaw before cooking. All clams should be cooked gently.
Now if you buy live clams at the market, look for tight-lipped, unbroken clams. They should have a briny smell. Let your nose guide you. And remember, don’t cinch the plastic bag or the clams will suffocate. Live clams need to breathe!
And FYI, all live clams in the shell are required by law to have a tag with information about the product and the processor. They will be a harvest date on the tag too. Ask the person behind the fish counter if you don’t see a tag.
When you get your clams home, store them in a colander in the coldest part of your refrigerator, which generally means in the back of the fridge. Set the colander in a bowl to catch the drip. Place a wet paper cloth the top so they don’t dry out. Cook the clams the same day or the next.
You will need to clean your live clams before you cook them. Check out the Martha Stewart video in the show notes for some tips.
Now, what recipes can you cook with clams?
Oh man, the opportunities are endless. Clams Casino, Clam Crostini, Steamed Clams, Grilled clams. My favorite go to clam recipe is New England Clam Chowder. It’s a classic seafood recipe that every seafood lover should have in their cooking repertoire.
Follow this link to my food blog for the New England Clam Chowder recipe.
Now since 90 percent of the clams on the market are farmed, what about the other 10 percent?
According to Seafood Watch, the status of wild clam population is unknown in all locations, but there is no evidence of overfishing occurring. So if you live near the coast, enjoy!
All this talk of clams makes me hungry. I’d love it of you share one of your fave clam recipes with me and my listeners. Send me an email at maureencberry at gmail dot com.
You know, before we move on to Climate Change, there are two additional things I want to share with you regarding clams.
Did you know Pacific giant clams are a possible solution for an alternative energy resource?
First to give you some perspective, how big is a giant clam?
The gorgeous iridescent clams reach up to four feet and can weigh up to 500 pounds. They live on coral reefs in the South Pacific and Indian Oceans for up to 100 years. According to NatGeo, no two giant clams have the same coloration. And once secured to the coral, never move again.
How cool is that?
But back to the energy solution. Giant clams have a unique space saving system which harvest energy from alga. Work is being done in the labs at the University of Pennsylvania and NASA to try to replicate this process. There is much more work on the horizon for this behemoth. You can find out more by following the links in the show notes.
Now the second thing I want to mention about clam’s has to do with composition.
In 2013 I attended the Sustainable Foods Institute at Monterey Bay Aquarium where I learned that clams show signs of distress when faced with rising water temperatures and ocean acidification. Dang. That doesn’t sound good, does it?
Just to clarify, ocean acidification is caused by human activities that generate carbon dioxide, that come from our cars and industrial facilities. And since the ocean is a giant sponge, it sucks up about thirty percent of that carbon dioxide, according to marine scientist Dr. Tessa Hill from UC Davis Bodega Marine Lab.
Clams (and other shellfish) have a difficult time generating their shell composition, resulting in smaller shells, smaller meat and possibly weaker shells making them susceptible to predators. Some will adapt to the new normal and some will not. The winners will be urchins, shrimp, lobster, crab (crustaceans). The losers? Mussels, oysters, clams, (bivalves).
Want the good news?
Of course you do!
Dr. Hill’s work in the lab and in the ocean with Hog Island Oyster at Tomales Bay, California has shown promise.
The next step is implementing this work and action with policy makers and industry.
It’s a given that we need a carbon diet.
If we reduce CO2, given the chance, organisms can respond and adapt.
C is for Climate Change.
Climate change is a large topic with many avenues to explore, so I’m going to narrow the lens to water.
Specifically drinking water.
Here are a few quick facts about water and how interconnected we are.
It’s no secret that all living beings need water to survive. We could go for weeks without food (although some days I wish my stomach and brain would recognize that) but only a few days without water.
The bond we have with water is intrinsically linked to our health, lives, and livelihoods.
The adult human body is made up of about 65 percent of water.
70 percent of the earth’s surface is covered by water.
The oceans hold about 96.5 percent of that water and only 2.5 to 3 percent of that is fresh water.
Less than 1 percent of that is drinkable.
Now that’s a lot to swallow.
Think about this.
Have you considered what you would be willing to do for your family if there was a water shortage?
A few weeks ago, I received a flyer in the mail, dated Jan 23, 2017, from the City of Madisonville about the quality of our drinking water. FLINT, MI popped into my brain. In bold capital letters!
And ICYMI, the residents of Flint Michigan, all 102,000 of them, couldn’t drink the water because it was contaminated with TTHM. Wait. For. Two. Years!
I got my panties in a wad over all this because all I could think of was Flint, MI. Tose poor folks!
So since the earth is made up of 70 percent water, why can’t we clean up the ocean water and make drinking water?
For one, desalinization plants are not yet as sustainable as they could be?
Desalination the process of removing salt and minerals from ocean water. Either done in a thermal plant (which requires a large amount of energy, think about that ocean acidification mentioned a few minutes back) or where seawater is forced through a semipermeable membrane to remove the salt. And what becomes of the salty discharge? It gets dumped back into estuaries or willy-nilly in the high seas. Plus it is not just salt water getting pumped through these screens, it includes marine life and plankton. And that’s not good at all. I mean if all we needed was a giant screen, there would be no plastic pollution in the ocean.
You know it’s not like desalination plants aren’t already in operation. 13,000 desalination plants already supply fresh water in 120 nations, primarily in the Middle East, North Africa and the Caribbean. There are about are about 300 desalinization plants in the United States, with 120 in Florida and less than 40 each in Texas and California. Some 20 additional plants are planned for the coast of California in the coming years if we continue with business as usual.
And while relying on freshwater streams, lakes and aquifers coupled with reduction and restrictions are the conservation way to go, some drought-stricken and heavily populated areas can’t rely on those methods.
Here in the US, we may find out sooner than later how we will fare without safe and plentiful drinking water.
The Ogallala Aquifer, the high plains aquifer system provides fresh water for roughly one-fifth of the wheat, corn, cattle and cotton in the United States.
But Ogallala Aquifer is in decline. The reason? Ground water is being discharged at a higher rate than it is being replenished.
And this aquifer depletion is not restricted to the US.
India, Pakistan, Mexico and the Middle East are also in trouble with aquifer depletion.
The biggest problem with a depleted aquifer. They can take up to 6,000 years to replenish fully.
So what do we do? Right now?
Some present-day solutions are crop rotation and drip irrigation.
Genetic crops (yes, super controversial) require less water and are already being tested and planted in fields in the US.
With our growing global population expected to exceed 9 billion people by midcentury, you can see that there is a huge potential water war for our future generations.
So beyond that, try not to get too freaked out, but don’t get too comfy either. See the US is already dealing with drought and water shortages. Look to California (now in its sixth straight year of drought). Head to the Southwest Arizona (where the Colorado river is drying up and the term megadrought will be a term we will become familiar with.
Continue traveling across the Great Plains and Midwest (nine states) where the extreme drought conditions in the last fifty years are affecting the production of corn, soy (3/4 of the world’s production) and livestock. Dry river beds are becoming a common site. Barges need to lighten their loads on the Mississippi.
Think about a gallon of water costing the same or more than a gallon of gasoline. Water will become a commodity.
So what actions can you take today?
Turn off the water faucet when you’re brushing your teeth. You don’t still do this, right?
Install low-flow shower heads and toilets.
Take shorter, cooler showers. Think less than five minutes (which can use up to 25 gallons of water.)
Plant drought tolerant gardens. I’ll have more on that in X is for Xeriscape later this year. Need some inspiration today? Check out the Pinterest link in the show notes for the beautiful drought tolerant garden ideas.
So, wow, that was a lot to digest.
What do you think?
Got a clam recipe or cool clam fact you’d like to share? Got a water solution worth mentioning? Did I miss something? Shoot me an email or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter. #GFBO
That’s it for this episode of GFBO. Don’t forget to subscribe on iTunes or Google Play so you don’t miss an episode. Remember to check out the show notes for clam recipes and additional reading.
Next up, D is for Dogfish and Discards. Have a great two weeks and thanks for listening to GreenFishBlueOceans.
Listen to B is for Barramundi and Blue Crab Meat here or download on iTunes or Google Play. (And please subscribe!)
But first, a couple of quick thoughts.
You know this podcasting thing is new to me, so if I miss something, make a mistake, or say something you don’t understand, please let me know! You can find me on social media or shoot me an email. Here’s my contact info.
Hey, you know what’s cool?
My friend Charity messaged me that her eight-year-old daughter wanted to share her fave salmon recipe with—wait—the salmon lady!
Poached Salmon with Avocado Aioli (in the microwave)
Here’s how she does it.
For the Avocado Aioli
Add 2 cloves garlic, 2 tbs white wine vinegar or another acid, 1 egg yolk, 1 tsp salt, 1 tsp mustard in a blender on the smoothie button or in a food processor on high. While the machine is running, slowly add up to 3/4 cup of olive oil until it comes together. Mash an avocado and add to the blender until the whole thing is smooth and creamy.
For the Salmon
Arrange the salmon in a shallow microwave safe dish. Season with salt and pepper, juice from half a lemon, a little olive oil and then add water to three-quarters of the way up the side of the fish. Microwave for two to three minutes until cooked thru.
Plate and drizzle the Avocado Aioli over the fish. Serve immediately with a green salad for a quick easy delicious balanced meal.
Do you have a favorite seafood recipe you’d like to share? Send me your favorite seafood recipes so I can share with my listeners!
And thanks, Charity!
On to the fish!
Of the over thirty thousand seafood species to choose from, why did I choose Barramundi?
First, barramundi is a terrific tasting fish. It’s sweet and slightly buttery, but clean. Mm-mm. It’s also high in protein and Omega 3s, and low in fat. It’s suitable for any method of preparation—on the grill, stovetop, and oven.
You might even be familiar with barramundi. It’s on restaurant menus around the globe and available in grocery markets too.
Barramundi is both wild and farm raised. Barramundi in general is a large and important commercial wild fishery. Barramundi is farmed raised in numerous countries with great success in ocean pens and land-based recirculating systems.
That is important.
You see, I believe that aquaculture, or farm raising fish, when done right, is one of the methods we can use to successfully feed our growing global population and help take the pressure off wild species.
I first became familiar with barramundi around 2007 or 2008, I can’t recall exactly. I was selling fish at the wholesale level in Florida. I didn’t sell much Barramundi because most Chefs wanted white fish that consumers were familiar with—grouper, snapper, cobia, wahoo, tilapia.
Then in 2015, at The Sustainable Seafood Blog Con in New Orleans, I met Josh Goldman, the CEO and co-founder of Australis Aquaculture, the company that farm raises barramundi. Josh and his wife invited me to sit with them for breakfast since I was sitting by myself like a wall flower. You know how conferences are when you don’t know anybody? I don’t know about you, but that situation takes anxiety to an epic level for me.
Anyway, over coffee, I discovered that Josh was the Josh giving the opening presentation at the conference that morning. So not only did I make a great connection, I had a front row seat to his presentation—which was all about farm raising sustainable sea bass, also known as, yep you guessed, barramundi.
The reason I’m talking about this particular product?
Because I have a personal connection. And that’s how I roll.
I like to know where my fish comes from and who is catching or raising it.
But also because I know that barramundi is good for you and the oceans. My favorite sustainable seafood resource, Seafood Watch, gives all seabass, white, black and European, a green and yellow rating with the except of one species—black sea bass caught in the US Northern Mid-Atlantic with an otter trawl. Fisheries that are managed, like the Mid-Atlantic black sea bass, have annual catch quotas. Based on the previous year’s landings and discards, also known as bycatch, another great B word, these quotas are sometimes revised and adjusted mid-year to help maintain healthy fish populations.
One of the reasons Seafood Watch rates this species red, or avoid is because of the fishing method and gear—an otter trawl.
Think of a large cone-shaped net that is dragged across the bottom of the ocean. In uneven surfaces, it can dislodge corals and seaweed, rocks and sand, disturbing precious marine life that relies on this habitat. More research needs to be done to determine the long-term effects of this type of fishing.
So besides that one exception, what’s not to like about this fish?
In the US, when you’re shopping for barramundi, check Australis Barramundi’s website for store locations. Then at the market head to the freezer section in the seafood department. Australis Barramundi is packaged in a black pouch with yellow lettering. And if you can’t find it in your market, ask the manager at the store to bring it in for you.
Now here’s a quick side note about shopping for barramundi/seabass and ordering it in a restaurant. There is a difference between black, white and European seabass and Chilean seabass. Chilean seabass is it not actually a bass, but rather a fish from the cod family, previously called Patagonian or Antarctic Toothfish. Super unappetizing, right? So why it was called seabass to confuse, is not something I have the answer for. Just be aware, okay?
I know this can be confusing, but that’s why you’re listening in!
Remember, the basics of sustainable seafood are about three things (well there are more but these are the basics):
What the species is
How it is caught, or in the case of farmed fish, how it is raised
Where it was caught, or raised
Alright, we know what barramundi is, where to find it at the market, and what to avoid let’s cook some fish.
As with most fish recipes, less is better. If you’re familiar with cooking grouper or striped bass, barramundi is similar. It’s flakey, with a toothsome feel. To complement that mild yet buttery flavor, think Honey-Sesame Vinaigrette, this sweet and nutty combo with a hint of heat and touch of acid is easy to whip up. To save time, you can make ahead a few days. Cover and refrigerate. Remember to bring it up to room temperature before shaking or whisking again.
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
2 tablespoons wildflower honey, or whatever your local bee farmer has
1 tablespoon low sodium soy sauce
Dash red pepper flakes
Dash kosher salt
Dash ground black pepper
Dash rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 green onions, sliced or chopped
one tablespoon canola oil
ground black pepper
2 (6-8) ounce portions Barramundi
Toast the sesame seeds in a small skillet over medium heat about four to five minutes or until they are golden brown in color. Shake the skillet often, careful not to burn the seeds.
Add the honey, soy, red pepper flakes, salt, and pepper to a small bowl and whisk.
Add a splash of rice wine vinegar. Whisk again.
Place a damp towel under the bowl to secure the bowl while you pour and whisk. Drizzle the oil into the vinaigrette slowly as you continue to whisk to emulsify the dressing.
Cook the soba noodles per the package directions. Drain and rinse in cold water.
Heat a large skillet over medium heat for several minutes or until the skillet feels hot when you hover your hand over the surface.
While the skillet heats, pat the barramundi dry and season both sides with salt and pepper.
Add the canola oil to the skillet and swirl to coat the surface.
Place the barramundi in the skillet, careful not to crowd, or the fish will steam not sear. Work in batches if you’re using a small skillet.
Sear the fish for three minutes on each side.
Mound the cooked soba noodles on a plate or in small bowls.
Arrange the barramundi on the soba noodles. Spoon the Honey Vinaigrette over the barramundi and noodles. Sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds and green onions over the top. Serve immediately with steamed broccoli, green beans or sugar snap peas.
Blue Crab Meat
Did you know there are over 4,000 crabs species, both fresh and salt water?
Crazy right? But we only eat a few dozen. Here’s a short list of edible crabs: Jonah, peekytoe, red, snow, brown, spider, Dungeness, yellow, rock, stone, hairy and swimmer crabs to name a few.
If I had to choose, my top three crab picks are Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab, Florida Stone Crab, and Alaska Red King Crab, and not necessarily in that order. Not only do I love the sweet flavors and textures of these species, each of them is sustainable.
So what made me pick blue crab meat for this episode?
Because of all the commercial species, this is one of those species that is widely consumed, but not always sustainable. And I think it’s important to talk about that.
So to clarify, I’m talking about blue crab meat found in the refrigerated section at the grocery. All blue crab meat comes from the Blue Swimmer crab. Mostly caught around the Pacific Rim, or at certain times of the year in the Chesapeake Bay and the East Coast of the US as far south as Florida.
Blue crab meat is sold either fresh or pasteurized. Fresh crab meat has a relatively short expiration date, say a day or two. Pasteurized crab meat has a refrigerated shelf life of up to one year unopened, but once opened, needs to be eaten in a day or two. Which should not be a problem at all crab lovers.
It’s important to read the labels on the tubs, cans, and pouches.
You may need to shop around a bit for a sustainable product since the market is flush with crab meat from India, Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam which are rated red on Seafood Watch recommendation list. And you know what a fan I am of that guide. The reason Seafood Watch rates these locations red is because of the fishing method which in this area is primarily bottom trawlers. More about that in a minute. The best, read most sustainable way to harvest crabs is with a crab pot, which is not really a pot, but rather a large square wire box.
So back to the bottom trawler.
A bottom trawler is a fishing net that is dragged along the ocean floor, scooping up everything in its path, seriously damaging a marine ecosystem and ocean floor. The nets are held open by trawl doors sometimes weighing up to five tons to give you some perspective. Worse, yes, there’s more, up to 90 percent of the catch is bycatch, another good B word, also called discards, but I’ll talk more about that in Episode 4, D is for Dogfish and Discards. Whether you call it bycatch or discards, it means the unintentional species that are caught in the bottom trawler, and then discarded, either dead or dying.
But also, crab from the Pacific Rim has a huge carbon footprint to get from the Pacific Rim to your plate. So there’s all that to consider.
That said, my intentions are to make you aware. Not decide for you.
Now, when you do find sustainable crab meat, you’ll have a few choices. Blue crab meat is sold as either jumbo lump, lump or backfin, special, and claw. Most likely you will see these three types in the US—jumbo, lump and claw.
So let me break that down. Jumbo lump meat is a premium product. It is the entire lump from the back of the crab. For each crab, there are only two whole jumbo lumps, so you can see why this would be the most expensive product on the market. Think thirty to forty plus dollars per pound.
When the pickers, the people who pick the meat from the crab, inadvertently break the jumbo meat apart, that product is called lump crab or backfin. So lump usually comes from the same part of the animal and the back and is less expensive than jumbo. Say around the twenty dollar range.
Claw is the least expensive and has a deeper, but sweet flavor than the lump meat. Claw meat is also is brownish-orange in color, compared to the pearly white color of the lump meat. Look for prices to be in the fifteen dollar range.
Once you select your crab meat, store it in the refrigerator until you are ready to eat it. Then once opened, eat immediately out of the container!
Quick & Easy Crab Cakes
Melt a tablespoon of butter over medium heat in a skillet.
Add a few tablespoons of minced celery and one teaspoon of shallots. Stir and cook for several minutes. Remove the veg from the heat to a medium bowl. Wipe out the skillet and let it cool away the burner.
Add one pound of Blue Crab Meat, a few tablespoons of mayonnaise, a few tablespoons of panko bread crumbs, a ½ teaspoon Dijon mustard, a dash of cayenne, kosher salt and ground black pepper to the celery and shallot. Grate a little lemon zest over the top and stir gently, careful not to break up the meat.
Form the crab mixture into patties equally. If you find the crab is falling apart, add a little more breadcrumbs and mayo. Cover and refrigerate for about twenty to thirty minutes.
Heat the same skillet or a flat griddle if you have one, over medium heat. Add a teaspoon of butter and oil and swirl to coat the surface letting the butter melt before you place the crab cakes in the skillet. Do not move the crab cakes and don’t crowd them either leaving a little space between the cakes. Cook for three minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low if you see the edges of the cakes browning too quickly.
Turn the crab cakes and continue cooking for an additional three to four minutes on the other side. You want a nice caramelized crust on both sides. If you turned the crab cakes too quickly, turn them back over to cook an additional minute.
Serve the crab cakes immediately with a lemon wedge and a fresh green salad.
That’s it for this episode seafood lovers.
Now, it’s time to send me your thoughts and questions. What would you like to know about your favorite seafood? Leave me a message or hit me up on Facebook or Twitter.
And I leave you with three things.
If you know someone who would like this podcast, please share!
And if you haven’t already, please consider subscribing to #GreenFishBlueOceans podcast, and let’s connect on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
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?
Preheat the oven to 275 degrees.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
If you know someone who would like this podcast, please share!
Welcome to Episode 0 of Green Fish Blue Oceans, the podcast where stories about seafood are good for you and the oceans.
I’m Maureen Berry, Kentucky-based sustainable seafood advocate, author of the cookbook Salmon From Market To Plate, nature photographer, book-lover, wire fox terrier lover and wait for it, professional nap-taker—yeah, I never thought I’d confess to that!
So what is Green Fish Blue Oceans podcast?
Buying the right seafood is more complex than ever, but with a few guidelines, you’ll be on your way to becoming a seafood-phenom. On each fifteen minutes episode, I’ll talk about a different species from A to Z, including both common and under loved fish. For each species, I’ll share shopping and cooking tips, recipe ideas and explore the sustainability and traceability of that fish. You’ll find out who is catching or farming that fish and how it gets from the boat or farm to your plate.
Maybe you want to know whether you should buy fresh, frozen, wild or farmed seafood?
Don’t worry. I got you covered.
Eating seafood that is good for you and the oceans is easier than ever. Just listen in for fifteen minutes every other week. You’ll be a sustainable seafood-phenom before you know it.
Now you might be asking, Hey Maureen, why I should care about all this?
Because your choices and actions impact the future of our oceans and planet.
Want to know more about me and my projects? Check out my website, maureencberry.com for easy-to-prepare recipes, photography, poetry, book events, updates and more. While you’re there, you can buy my cookbook, Salmon From Market To Plate, when you want to eat salmon that is good for you and the oceans, available on Amazon in print and ebook.
Want to stay in touch? I do! Sign up for my free monthly newsletter. It comes to your inbox every third Sunday of the month. I highlight people and organizations doing amazing art, science, and tech, all to preserve our beautiful blue planet.
Got a question or want to say hello?
Shoot me an email maureen cberry at gmail dot com.