Yum! Invasive Fish Species!

Graphic by whyfiles.org.

Graphic by whyfiles.org.

I want to eat all the invasive fish species. Not right now, of course. But over time.

Did you know many common fish like tilapia and smallmouth bass are actually invasive species? Probably not. Over time and generations, it’s been forgotten that these fish are not native. That takes the stigma out of eating them. After all, who wants to eat something considered “invasive”?

I do. Because invasive fish are wild caught, rather than farmed. Eating them is helping the environment along with providing nutrients. I want to try all of these fish fried, in ceviche, grilled, smoked, maybe some fusion methods of cooking I’m not yet privy to.

Technology is helping me, and all of the invasive fish lovers out there, get one step closer to that delicious, nutritious dream.

The New Yorker describes the case of the lionfish, an invasive species plaguing parts of the Caribbean and the Southeastern United States. USGS created an app that helps researchers and fisherman track lionfish. The app lets users document how fish many are in a given area and what methods are used to catch them.

For many fishermen, either professional or hobby, this app could turn fishing for invasive species into a high-precision endeavor. But first, in the name of sustainability, the market for invasive fish species must be established close to home.

Chicago’s WGN TV reported 15 million pounds of Asian Carp are caught annually by one seafood processor. But the market for Asian Carp, a name that refers to four types of fish invading U.S. waterways via the Mississippi River, is in China. It’s fantastic that there’s a market for these fish. But it seems excessive that they’re shipped halfway across the globe when the healthy appetites of Midwestern fish fries could polish off tons of them.

If companies like Sea to Table can partner with local sustainable fisherman to overnight their catch to restaurants around the U.S., certainly a Midwestern seafood processor can flash freeze Asian Carp and sell it throughout the region.

It may take a media campaign from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services, and it will definitely take the opening of many minds, but we owe it to our waterways and overall ecosystems to eat invasive species near the regions they’re invading. Not only does it save fossil fuels, but it raises awareness.

Current cultural food trends, like local food and foraging, as well as developing cheap food sources, feed right into eating invasive species locally. C’mon foodies and food advocates: give an invasive fish species a taste.

For more information on eating invasive species, check out conservation biologist Joe Roman’s website and call to action, eattheinvaders.org.

From Sea and Fishery to My Belly

LogoI choose my food very carefully. I’m not a foodie; I’m a food advocate. I advocate for food to be transparently produced with the highest ecological and animal welfare standards. I want to make the best choices for the planet and the animals on it. I’ve had the opportunity to research, write or live every aspect of the food production, manufacturing and distribution chain. An attitude of stewarship, from my experience, is best when paired with consideration to human physiology and cultural practices.

For years, I ate a vegan and vegetarian diet. After growing up on a cattle farm and eating an abundance of steaks, roasts and ground beef for the first 17 years of my life, I gradually exited the meat game when I moved away to college. I still remember finishing off that last packet of chicken-flavored ramen. PETA’s seminal shock-umentary “Meet Your Meat” and a growing knowledge of industrial CAFOs were enough to put me off of carnivorousness.

Never one to turn down a challenge, I decided to kick my food-based activism up a notch in grad school. I went full vegan. Pollution from dairy farms and the oddity that humans are the only animal that drink milk beyond infancy, let alone the milk of another species, seemed counterintuitive. But my body reacted instantly. Since all of the information I’d seen on veganism indicated that it was the healthiest thing a human could do for their body, I attributed the onset of acne (which I’d never experienced at the age of 22) to stress from my first desk job, an internship. However, it was likely due to stress on my body from cutting out a source of nutrients that my ancestors had evolved to utilize.

About eight years later, I found myself constantly famished. In the meantime, I had relapsed into carnivorous territory for a few years in New York (after successfully maintaining a vegan diet for months in Costa Rica, which was no picnic). A move to Madison, Wis., later and this glutton for punishment went vegetarian and then vegan again. But when an herbalist suggested I cut soy out of my diet, I realized I had to start eating eggs or spend most of my time hungry and hunting for food. A month later, I stood bewildered in the dairy aisle, confounded by choices of eight different concentrations of milk. After the dairy experiment, I was still not in the best health and remained quite hungry, so I got on the pescatarian bandwagon. (Most restaurants in Madison have amazing fish frys on Friday evenings. That and the cheese curds encouraged some dietary shifts.)

As I integrated more healthful sources of animal protein into my diet, I felt it my responsibility to stick with the most local and organic options. I buy organic whole milk from Sassy Cow Creamery and organic, soy-free eggs from M&M Farms. (I recently made huevos ranchers with two types of eggs: M&M’s and a leading national organic brand. M&M’s yolks were much oranger and the shells were stronger too.) I willingly pay more for these products because, in a capitalist economy, every dollar is a vote. I vote for sustainability.

I feel priveleged because I realize the opportunity to vote with your food dollar is a luxury for many. I have access to these products and the money to spend on them. I make it a priority. College loans can wait: I need fresh food!

I’ve extended that effort to the seafood that I eat. I take the same attitude with fish as I did with meat. I eat it at restaurants, which makes it a bit trickier to get information on where the fish was sourced from. Some of the best fish frys are at local mom-and-pop joints with other priorities than sustainability. But there are plenty of local-food restaurants in town whose fish frys I’m destined to try. Seafood is new to me and it’s a learning process I enjoy.

As part of the Sustainable Seafood Bloggers Association, I’m committed to sharing the same information I look for when making choices about what I eat. I hope to enlighten and am always interested in questions and feedback. Thanks for joining us on this sustainable seafood journey! I’m sure it will encourage us to be more mindful of not just the food we eat, but the world in general.

Check out the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch App to help you make the most sustainable seafood purchasing decisions.

Sustainable Seafood Bloggers Association: Under the Sea and Onto Your Plate — Responsibly

Logo(July 14, 2014) Something’s fishy.

The most recent data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations shows annual world fishery production of 158 million tons, up an astonishing345% from fifty years earlier. Global per capita consumption of seafood has nearly doubled to 19 kilograms annually in the last 50 years, and by 2050, the population is expected to balloon to 9 billion. Despite the vital importance of seafood as a world food supply, there is relatively little conversationoutside the scientific, activist and conservation communities about how to replenish and maintain it. Everyone plays a role in the health of the oceans, and with more information, can contribute in ways that accumulate to make a sizeable difference.

Enter the Sustainable Seafood Bloggers Association (SSBA). Five independent bloggers from the worlds of food, science, culture and regulation have banded together, each creating weekly blog posts to bring seafood sustainability into ongoing conversations about food, corporate responsibility and environmental stewardship. Together, their social media channels reach roughly 50,000 subscribers, a substantial audience and robust network for the SSBA to begin its campaign.

  • Richard Auffrey of The Passionate Foodie is a licensed attorney in Massachusetts, an award-winning food and drink writer and a sake educator.
  • Holly Henschen of The Futurist Farmgirl is a long-time food journalist, nature-lover and former Midwestern farm dweller who’s written for publications including: The Wall Street Journal, Barron’s and Food Manufacturing.
  • Tom Siebertz of Chews-Worthy, formerly of the NOAA’s Marine Fisheries Service, is a regulatory & food labeling specialist, as well as a student of food science, business and regulatory affairs.
  • Jason Simas of The Food Safety Blog is founder of Grant, Hamilton & Beck communications consultancy and directs social media communications for the food safety and sustainability life science company iPura Foods.
  • Kerrie Urban of Urban Foodie Finds co-founded Blog and Tweet Boston and writes on topics such as organic vs. natural foods and sustainability, as well as local farmers and small businesses.

The growing world population taxes water supplies, as well as the wildlife and food sources that inhabit them. Sustainable practices are vital to cultivating the seafood that remains and ensuring these creatures continue viable food sources for years to come. Look forward to cogent conversations from the Sustainable Seafood Bloggers Association that aim to integrate this imperative topic of choice into the growing movement toward responsible food.

Visit the Sustainable Seafood Bloggers Association members on their respective blogs and on Twitter at #SSBAFish.

Contact: Jason Simas

granthamiltonbeck@gmail.com

(805) 438-4268