Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Fish Part I

Fish is one of those foods that I just don’t get into very much. It takes a skilled hand to make some fish palatable, a hand that I don’t really have. Shrimp I can muddle through but others just aren’t my style. Thus, I hadn’t really delved into the world of local fish until recently. You may remember a couple weeks ago I covered the brand new Elizabeth Avenue Farmers Market. While there, I spent a lot of time discussing fish with the fisherman selling his catch. This really got me to wondering not only about how a fish can be local but about fishing in general and how sustainable it can be. I’ve heard lots about fish from environmentalists and how wild fish catching is not sustainable yet neither is fish farming  so I decided to do a little research.

A friend suggested I read Four Fish by Paul Greenberg. Conveniently, this coincided with a trip I took to the beach with college friends including Corinne Everett Belch, perhaps the biggest foodie of my friends. This and next week’s post are my take (and some of hers) on Greenberg’s book, what we decided to buy while at the beach and how we made it.

Greenberg is, in addition to a columnist for the New York Times and Vogue, a fisherman himself. Growing up in New England, he has witnessed firsthand the disappearance of wild fish species and his book centers on this phenomenon. He argues the fish that we eat today primarily fall into four groups instead of representing the fish native to the coast closest to where a consumer lives: salmon, sea bass, cod and tuna. These fish have been hunted almost to extinction and genetically altered to live in large farms where they can be cheaply bred, fattened and consumed.

Greenberg outlines how fish today are raised in captivity as well as caught in the wild and what that means. He traveled to places far and wide including Alaska to see the effects of salmon over-fishing on native peoples there to Norway, the leader in aquaculture. What he found is that our fish stocks are not being carefully managed due to the international nature of fishing and countries not being willing or able to do so. Many advances have been made in this arena but for the most part, fishing continues only moderately overseen which is leading or population decreases in many parts of the world.

So what about fish that you can buy at a market or at the beach itself? Check in next week to see what we found about what Greenberg calls the last wild food.

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