The Angler’s Assumption: taking our seafood for granted

Prawn - Florida, wild caught, roasted tomato 'salsa'

Prawn – Florida, wild caught, roasted tomato ‘salsa’

I will never forget the first time I caught a fish. A bluegill whose fair size was relative to the ‘Twin Lakes’ outside my childhood home in mid- Michigan. I remember the wonderment I felt as a young boy peering at this fish, so alive with its sheen and squirm, dangling from my arched fishing pole. Time held still as my father’s strong hand slid down the top of the fish and held its sharp dorsal fin in place. I listened closely as he carefully removed the hook from the mouth and instructed, “this is a gift, and gifts come with responsibility.”

Skuna Bay Salmon from Vancouver

For about twenty years, those words have stuck with me.  They are subconscious aspects of the food I cook in my personal and professional life, especially when it comes to seafood. I certainly didn’t learn about sustainability, locational sourcing or birth-to-catchratios in my five-second “life lesson” on the Twin Lakes that day, but I’ve always known I hadto respect the food I eat. As I’ve progressed through my life and have had the privilege of experiencing and experimenting with rare ingredients, the humane responsibilities of making that selection are imperative.

I know that seared blue gill with acidity and contrasting texture is phenomenal, or that Michigan is known for its Friday Fish Fry. What about having Coldwater Maine Lobster, Alaskan Halibut, Scallops from Massachusetts, or Japanese Oysters? Eating these delicacies are a rarity, and should be treated as one. We should all be educated on the horrors of over-fishing and net-rigged catch of beautiful fish such as the Chilean Sea Bass or the Pacific’s massive Bluefin Tuna, the toxicity caused by certain mass fish farming and the proper harvesting season of crustaceans.

Ocean Tasting

We should all also know that being responsible for what seafood we eat is much simpler than understanding every aspect of our aquatic kingdom on Earth.

In coastal California, not far from San Francisco, is the beautiful Monterey Bay, where my sister was wed and home toone of the most important and relevant aquarium/research institutes in the United States: Monterey Bay Aquarium Research institute (MBARI). Located in Moss Landing, the bay is vastly blue and filled with lush sea life, colorful coral and the occasional humpback whale. They are globally recognized for their research and standards concerning oceanic habitat.

Their website also has a convenient app for mobile devices, MBA Seafood Watch, which I use regularly when ordering seafood for the restaurant, buying fish at the store and researching into menu design. MBARI clearly decides and explains what seafood by location is categorized as a ‘best choice’, ‘good alternative’, ‘bad alternative’ or ‘avoid’.  There is also great detail into fishing practices and specific weather effects in all areas of the world.  They even have now added a social media aspect, connecting people to share where they source sustainable seafood.

33lb Striped Bass, hand-line caught, Maryland

33lb Striped Bass, hand-line caught, Maryland

If you’re having a hard time sourcing high quality and sustainable seafood, come into Webster’s and we would love to meet you and aid in supplying you with responsible seafood.

It is a big world out there, and we cannot allow its size to make us oblivious to what we eat. As all of you know, the future is inevitable. We need to share information and help each other to better this planet, and ourselves. I see myself sitting on an old wooden dock one day, early in the dawn of the beautiful Michigan fall, casting a fishing lesson with my child.

Nate Shaw
Kitchen Superior

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