Posted on September 1, 2011 - by

When Waltzing with the Naked Chef, Hold On to Your Seachoice Seafood Guide


Photo: Blue Water Cafe

Today’s guest post is courtesy of Ana Simeon from Sierra Club BC and Seachoice.

You’re watching your favourite cooking show and the chef is putting together something mouth-watering like “Pan-Seared Chilean Seabass” or “Grilled Monkfish with Olive Sauce.”

Enthused, you may be tempted to rush out to get the Chilean seabass. With candles and wine, the meal is a success and your culinary prowess toasted by your family and guests. And then a niggling thought pricks the bubble of contentment: isn’t Chilean seabass on the taboo list? You look up “Chilean Seabass” on your Seachoice iPhone app and, true enough, there’s a long laundry list of crimes against the ocean – from illegal overfishing (over 50% of Chilean seabass on the market is thought to be illegally obtained) to by-catch of internationally endangered wandering albatross and grey-headed albatross. Oh dear, oh dear!

Although many chefs are beginning to take ocean health into account when concocting their creations, this is a process that has taken root most strongly at the restaurant level, but has yet to penetrate the TV networks.

Does it mean you have to stop watching those benighted cooking shows? Not at all. For every red-listed fish there is a delicious, and more sustainable, alternative waiting to take its place. For example, sablefish has been described as the “fish version of chocolate” and its smooth, silky taste (with 50% more Omega 3’s than salmon) more than holds its own against the commercially touted Chilean seabass. To get you started, here’s a recipe for Caramelized Sablefish with Tangy Orange-Tamarind Sauce from Vancouver’s fabled Blue Water Café: http://houseandhome.com/food/recipes/sablefish-caramelized-soy-and-sake-recipe

As a cooking show viewer, you’re also in a perfect position to educate chefs and networks about sustainable seafood. Call in or drop them an email – spread the word!

The table below lists ocean-friendly substitutes for red-listed seafood in your favourite recipes:

Red-Listed Species Best Choice Alternative
Chilean Seabass Sablefish(AK, BC)
Cobia (US Farmed)
King Crab Dungeness Crab (Canada; US West Coast)
Flounder or Sole Halibut (Pacific)
Marlin (Blue or Striped) Swordfish (harpoon and handline from Canada,
North Atlantic and East Pacific)
Monkfish Sablefish (AK, BC)
Orange Roughy Pacific Cod (Alaska)
Red Snapper Tilapia (US farmed)

We’d love to hear of your experiences substituting these ocean-friendly choices! Email us at info@seachoice.org or comment below.

Ana Simeon works as communications coordinator and grassroots organizer for Sierra Club BC and Seachoice, a coalition of five internationally respected Canadian conservation organizations working to shift the market to sustainable seafood. Ana also writes for BC print and online media on environmental topics. Providing social media and online content for Seachoice taps into her passion for local food, food security and all things culinary.

Ana enjoys hiking, bird-watching, and grows a sizeable vegetable garden with her husband Tom. On cold, rainy days, she keeps to her fireside with a book from her extensive collection of 1930 British detective fiction.

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10 Comments

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  1. Visit My Website

    September 2, 2011

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    Bett said:

    Here’s a thought. Instead of suggesting that people kill other fish than those on the list, why not try a fish-free (and thus mercury, pcb, and other toxin-free) organic alternative. Tofu and other meat-and-toxin-free alternatives can be made to taste like fish but don’t trash the earth or kill innocent creatures.



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    September 2, 2011

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    kate said:

    Sablefish (aka black cod) and halibut may be more sustainable choices, but have typically high concentrations of bioaccumulated mercury. Both EPA and FDA advise limiting the amount of that young children, women who are or may become pregnant, and women who are nursing limit the amount of consumed methylmercury.

    How about eating foods that are LOCAL?



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    September 2, 2011

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    Stefan Cairns said:

    While I think and truly believe you are genuinely trying to help and inform people, I want to offer this advice.
    All fish and seafood is contaminated with mercury. In fact once absorbed by the fish it becomes methyly mercury which is 100 times more toxic than mercury. Visit my website and get lots more very useful and honest information.



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    September 2, 2011

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    Randy said:

    While I believe your comments are well intentioned, they are never the less untrue. Ever wonder why seafood-eating populations like the Japanese are generally the healthiest and long-lived, and not falling over from mercury toxicity? The fact is that when it comes to most seafood, the contaminant issue is a mythological boogieman promoted by vegans, PETA, supplement companies, and others seeking to advance their own agendas. The most eloquent scientific studies have repeatedly shown that the benefits of consuming seafood VASTLY outweigh the risks, and that restricting seafood consumption CAUSES more harm than it prevents. Translation: frightening people–especially pregnant women–away from eating seafood, no matter how well-intentioned, does more harm to them and their babies than eating fish ever has. The FDA now realizes this, which explains its recent policy revision to recommend consuming more, not less ocean fish (with the exception a few large, long-lived predatory species like big tuna, shark, etc.) Choosing sustainable seafood (and other) choices insures that fish and other foods will be around for our grandchildren to enjoy.



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    September 2, 2011

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    Pablo said:

    This list is not well thought out…I agree with the majority of the others that mercury concerns are real….further more, swordfish is a threatened species on many lists….and most importantly, FARM RAISED FISH SHOULD NEVER BE EATEN….they are all fed GMO corn, soy and canola…how sustainable is that?….and farm fish also have high omega 6 fats (especially tilapia) which really defeats the purpose of eating fish in the first place…



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    September 2, 2011

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    Mary said:

    I disagree with the substitute for Red Snapper being “farm raised” Tilapia. Wild caught is always the healthier choice; I am surprised a health website would recommend a farm raised fish. Please let me know a good “wild caught” alternative to Red Snapper. I love love love Red Snapper! (but don’t eat it often) Thanks!



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    September 2, 2011

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    Vassey said:

    Not only do you not address the polluted, harmful conditions in farm raised fish, you also do not speak of the radioactive contaminant of the ocean by Fukushima and how that affects fish.



  8. Visit My Website

    September 3, 2011

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    Rob Englert said:

    Eat local fish. I usually get flounder or grouper.
    I have eaten halibut or cod because at
    least it is from the USA. Catfish and Salmon
    are also good choices. Shrimp is good if is wild
    caught in US waters. I am lucky to be able to
    buy local shrimp not toxic foreign farm raised
    shrimp.



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    September 3, 2011

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    Randy said:

    While fears are understandable, there are thousands of miles and trillions of gallons of water between the Fukushima tragedy and Alaska, and no evidence that radiation could migrate that distance in sufficient concentrations to contaminate Alaskan fish. One could argue that the wide spectrum of marine nutrients in wild salmon is much more likely to confer protection than harm.



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    September 4, 2011

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    martyn bassett said:

    All fish and seafood is contaminated with mercury.
    All oceans are over fished. No fish at all should be consumed at all. GO VEGAN! The best you can do for animals, people, the environment and your own health.

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