Mystified by seafood? It’s easy to get confused when we’re told to eat more fish and then warned about sustainability and sources. We’re happy to share some sound advice from Chef Steve Phelps, Owner of Indigenous in Sarasota, FL.
Where Does the Seafood You Eat Come From?
While Americans love seafood, few know its sources. Unlike with produce and meat companies, there is often not a lot in the way of record-keeping that would allow consumers to find out where their seafood comes from. This information is crucial if you want to know the ecological implications of your consumption.
By making the right dining choices, you can help to support solutions for healthier oceans. Paying attention to the sources of fish sends a strong message to both government leaders and to leaders of the fishing industry that you support responsible stewardship of the planet’s oceans.
About Sustainable Seafood
This can be defined as fish that has been harvested in a way that allows populations to be maintained or increased over time. Seafood is only sustainable if it can be harvested without endangering the health or function of the oceanic ecosystem. If you want to buy only sustainable fish, you will have to find out where it is from.
Ideally, your fish should be from sustainable capture fisheries. These fisheries are less vulnerable to fishing pressure and thus are less likely to be overfished. They use fishing techniques that minimize the potential for catching unwanted species. These techniques also maintain natural relationships between species in the ecosystem.
How to Tell if What You Buy is from a Sustainable Source
If you are eating out, ask the restaurant if their fish supply is from a sustainable source. Many chefs have purchasing policies to ensure that the product they buy comes from sustainable fisheries. Those purchasing policies may also cover the type of processing the fish undergoes before it gets to your plate. You should also ask how it was caught, whether by bottom trawling, driftnets or long lines. All of these methods are associated with catching large amounts of unwanted species. Opt for fish caught with more sustainable methods like handlines, pots or jigs.
Your menu choices as well as where you choose to eat can help with the replenishment of overfished waters. The key is to find out the source of the seafood that winds up on your plate.
The Guide to Seafood Sustainability
Sustainable SeafoodSustainability is one of the more commonly raised topics in discussions about fisheries. The big question in the minds of many consumers is this: what exactly is sustainability and how does it relate to seafood? According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), seafood sustainability can be defined as ensuring that the population of a species of fish is sufficient to meet the needs of today’s consumers. It should be able to meet those present needs without affecting the ability of that species to reproduce and meet the needs of future generations.
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization states that the vast majority of the world’s fisheries are stressed by overfishing. This means that they are over exploited or they are being fished to the maximum allowed level. It can also mean that they have been depleted and are in the process of recovering.
How to Know if the Seafood on Your Menu Came From Sustainable Sources
If it is Harvested in the US
The US government manages fisheries to determine when and where fishermen can catch fish. Fish scientists assess stocks around the country to estimate how many fish are in the water. Imported seafood may also be sustainable, but can come from a wide range of sources. Those sources may not be held to the same high standards as seafood from the US.
By Purchasing From a Reputable Restaurant
Many chefs have purchasing policies for seafood that prioritize sustainability. Indigenous is committed to only serving sustainable fish and Chef Phelps is passionate about this endeavor.
Ask Questions About Seafood Sustainability
Learn where the seafood you are buying is from and how to identify quality sustainable seafood.
Learn How it is Caught
The methods of catching seafood differ in their level of sustainability. For example, the hook and line method has little impact to the sea floor and allows fishermen to return unwanted species. In most cases, the unwanted species will be returned quickly enough for them to survive.
For a menu full of fresh, sustainable seafood choices, visit Indigenous, and be sure to tell Chef Steve that Fred Bollaci sent you! Also be sure to follow Chef Steve’s blog on the restaurant website!
Photos courtesy of Chef Steve Phelps and Indigenous Restaurant.
239 S. Links Ave.
Sarasota, FL 34236