Sustainable Seafood 101

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There are thousands of cooking blogs -- each week, we bring you highlights from the best. This week, we've got sustainable seafood on the brain.


As we scuttled off to test entries for last week's contest, Your Best Seafood Pasta, we found ourselves in a classic sea cucumber of a pickle: where and how to source all the clams, scallops, shrimp (insert starring seafood ingredient here)? This important decision is not to be underestimated -- quality will make or break a dish that's all about exhibiting the fresh taste of the sea, no matter what coast you're on. But these aren't the only challenges facing the conscientious cook. In a time when overfishing and ocean pollution are major international issues, seasonality and sustainability are just as important to factor in at the fishmonger.

Four Fish by Paul Greenberg

And so, just as we encourage shopping local and in season in all other grocery departments, we've scoped out a few different informative resources to help with our sea-to-table eating. Inspired by Paul Greenberg's Four Fish, in which the journalist examines the forces that bring fish to our tables, we found a number of websites worth plumbing in order to better understand what Greenberg calls the last truly wild food.

Seafood Watch, powered by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, should be a cook's go-to. With sustainable seafood recipes and a recommendations section where you can share suggestions for other cooks, this site is extremely informative and well-thought-out. And the newest iteration of their iPhone app includes Project FishMap, which lets you share the locations of restaurants and markets where you've found sustainable seafood.

While cooking seasonally and sustainably has its challenges at home, it's really in restaurant culture where we find things get, well, a lot fishier. It was this realization that led us to fish2fork, an invaluable guide complete with a restaurant index, news, and fish facts (perhaps most helpful: the top 10 to eat, and top 10 to avoid).

Full disclosure: we were feeling a bit swimmy when we set off in the sea of online sustainability literature, so if you know of any other great resources, feel free to share them in the comments section!

Seafood Watch at the Monterey Bay Aquarium


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Comments (11)


over 2 years ago Marc Osten - Marc's Culinary Compass

WAKE UP isn't just this type of exotic abuse but the full on global depletion of our oceans. There are FREE resources for chefs and the rest of us foodies who care about overfishing, underutilized fish species and where we get our fish.

Regional guides about specific fish species, ratings of fish/food purveyors and more.
Time is running out but we can improve the situation. http://www.marcs-culinary...


almost 4 years ago ljdavie

Good article and the more people writing about the importance of sustainable fishing, the better. It is crucial that the problem of over-fishing is adressed and increasing awareness of sustainable fish is imperative. I eat regularly in London and have been on the look out for a London sushi restaurant that serves sustainable dishes and is commited to not serving at risk species like blue fin tuna - so far, Feng Sushi has impressed me the most with their dedication to serving sustainably sourced seafood dishes.


over 4 years ago defelice

Carefully of Seafood watch, it is outdated on many species


over 4 years ago Food52

This is from your friendly editors at Food52.

Glad to have tapped into so much enthusiasm -- thanks to all who've provided additional interesting resources. Clearly we all agree that it's truly an important issue. Thanks again!


over 4 years ago Homemadecornbread

Thanks for bringing attention to this complex subject. Here on the Gulf Coast we have many issues affecting the sustainability of our seafood. Pollution, run-off and over-fishing of menhaden are the 3 biggest issues. Here's a link to the subject of menhaden on the excellent website of the Gulf Restoration Network.

The sustainability of our seafood is also vital to the long term economy of this beautiful region of the country. While we are so pleased to have our seafood back, and many locals are eating it, an interesting fact to note is that as of today a 1,000 square mile area of the gulf, around BP's exploded wellhead, is still closed to closed to fishing.


over 4 years ago ShewChef

Check out The Ocean Wise Cookbook by Jane Mundy (Whitecap 2010). Great recipes and informative material about sustainable seafood. Great for the table. Oh, and the planet...


over 4 years ago Maureen

Awesome that you're tackling sustainable seafood. I've worked in the food industry (specifically seafood) for many, many years. As a seafood lover and writer of this slippery, complex subject, I can recommend a few sites that I use for research. I think you'll find these sites incredibly valuable and trustworthy. Also,the Seafood Summit 2011 is in Vancover until tomorrow. #ss11 on Twitter.

Marine Stewardship Council
International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas ICCAT

I invite you to my blog www.SeafoodLadyOrlando... to check out my series on sustainable seafood. I posted yesterday about Stone Crab Claws. I hope I'm not overstepping my bounds by submitting my blog. Let me know if you'd like additional information.


over 4 years ago Greenstuff

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

The issues surrounding seafood--sustainability and pollutants--are so confusing that even some people who live on the coast and are otherwise very involved in knowing food avoid it. Big mistake!! Study after study agree that health benefits outweigh health risks, and programs like Seafood Watch are incredibly helpful. There are also a lot of good cookbook resources. The one that's gotten the most attention is Fish Forever by Paul Johnson, the owner of Monterey Fish Market, with a wholesale operation in San Francisco and a retail outlet in Berkeley. He addresses pollutants as well as sustainability. Two others are One Fish, Two Fish, Crawfish, Bluefish: The Smithsonian Sustainability Seafood Cookbook (beautiful illustrations!) and Ocean Friendly Cuisine, a publication of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, those same folks who brought us Seafood Watch..


over 4 years ago Angela @ the well-worn apron

Sunset Magazine recently added a guide to sustainable seafood in the Western U.S. It includes a shopping guide and lots of great recipes using sustainable seafood. The recipes are tasty and helpful for getting comfortable cooking seafood that might be new to you. While this information focuses on the West there are tips and ideas for cooks everywhere.
Full disclosure: I work part-time in the Sunset Test Kitchen.


over 4 years ago prettyPeas

Thanks for adding this info about sustainability. The Seafood Watch app is great--as fishing is quite regional and there are so many varieties of fish it is difficult to keep track of. Additionally, this great article shows that even when restaurants attempt or claim to be sustainable they lose track of the actual supplier of some fish (or lie) and serve seafood known to be a bad choice environmentally because it is so delicious and in demand.


over 4 years ago cookinginvictoria

Great info, especially the Seafood Watch site. I will bookmark it and consult it frequently. Thanks for posting!