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Enjoying Fish, the Sustainable Way

Enjoying Fish, the Sustainable Way

Consuming more fish of the kind that is caught locally is a challenge taken up by starred restaurants, and endorsed by famous chefs.

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Nose to tail, farm to table and now... dock to dish: the cooking trends endorsed by famous chefs have recently incorporated a healthy new dogma that consists in consuming more fish of the kind that is caught locally, very locally. And which helps save our seas, and all those of the planet, from destruction, without failing to guarantee the same high culinary standards, with fish continuing to be the basic ingredient of dishes that stand out for their flavour and presentation.

The need to save marine environments from being over exploited is both global and local: in the United States alone, 90% of the fish consumed is imported; there are 25 countries in the world in control of 75% of fish supplies and, by encouraging them to harvest and fish the right species with specifically studied measures, it would be possible to increase the fish catch sufficiently to feed up to 700 million people a day (it is all described in Oceana’s Save the Oceans: Feed the World Campaign, as we reported here).

A concept that has already been wholeheartedly adopted by Michael Cimarusti, for instance, the two Michelin starred chef of the Providence restaurant in LA, elected by the Los Angeles Times as the city’s best restaurant ( One of the reasons for this success consists in his bold decision to present a 200 dollar menu in which over half of the fish served has never been seen or heard of by his clients. Nevertheless, it never fails to satisfy even the most discerning palate.

Dock to dish is the name given to an idea inspired by the Providence in LA, thanks to another very popular chef (Dan Barber of the Blue Hill Restaurant in New York): that of convincing restaurateurs to deal with local community-based fisheries through a shorter supply chain in order to have the best possible sustainable catch to serve in their restaurants every day. As Barber himself declares, "It applies the farm-to-table philosophy to the oceans".

The idea caught on immediately and soon spread north from Florida. It was particularly welcomed by the more prominent chefs, who are increasingly sensitive to the issue of ocean impoverishment and more and more eager to use fish species, such as herrings and sardines which, until just a few years ago, only appeared in the humble kitchens of local seafood restaurants in the world’s coastal areas. To convince the more reluctant chefs, since 2000 the United States network of Chefs Collaborative has been working on a programme and its relative publication to promote local fish, Seafood Solutions: A Chef's Guide to Sourcing Sustainable Seafood.

Besides, this theme has been adopted by New York as one of the new year resolutions for 2016 (as well as one of the 2016 food rising trends, as we explained here): eat sustainable fish by hunting out the best restaurants serving it, and the New York Magazine joins in by publishing a useful guide of 10 fish to look out for and a list of venues in which to find them. Among the fish worth tasting, the guide indicates the Lionfish: by eating it you help free the waters of the Mexican Gulf of one of the worst predators of small marine species, or the Asian carp, known in China to be a menace to precious plankton. Alternatively, for those who like them, another mindful choice is that of feasting on molluscs such as mussels, which are highly nutritious, being protein-rich, tasty and eco-compatible: apparently they also contribute to filtering the water and keeping our seas clean, wherever they are farmed.

From the United States to Europe, there is a high level of awareness regarding fish consumption and the need to protect our marine eco-system. Starting from the Inseparable campaign promoted by the European Commission with the motto "Eat, buy and sell sustainable fish". This same message is echoed in the Fish Forward campaign sponsored by the WWF and European Union, participated by 11 European countries, from Bulgaria to Austria, to grow awareness among consumers and change the world by just modifying our purchasing habits at the fishmonger’s.

In France, Breton chef Gaël Orieux, and his colleague François Pasteau from the L'epi Dupin restaurant in Paris have become ambassadors of the more humble and simple fish varieties. They invite their customers to enjoy the delights of anchovies and hake, saithe and poor-cod fished off France, while in Turkey, his colleague Mehmet Gürs (from the Mikla restaurant in Istanbul) conducts his battle in favour of fish remaining in the sea until they are large enough to be caught.

These chefs are not alone: following roof gardens for growing zero kilometre vegetables, locally harvested fish (including the use of fish scraps in cooking) has become the battle cry for foodies worldwide. And from now on, when visiting the world’s best restaurants and browsing through the list of fish dishes, our advice is to choose those with the most outlandish and unfamiliar names.

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