Nov 12 2013

The fish we don’t eat

blackfish - SalonIt’s hard to imagine just how many edible fish there are until you see them arrayed in their multicolored, multi-finned glory. Lobster Place, a bustling seafood shop in the center of New York’s Chelsea Market, is a good place to start. The store’s open display cases hold live sea urchins that respond to the touch; fat, juicy chunks of Hawaiian Wahoo; gigantic, whole tilefish that stare, glassy-eyed at the curious consumer; and other offerings that, were they not labeled, you’d need a degree in marine biology to recognize.

Some, like baby squid and octopi, razor clams, and fillets of specialty catch that retail for upward of $25 per pound, might intimidate the standard home chef in search of something to serve for dinner. This is intentional. Chelsea market draws tourists, upper-class gourmands and Food Network fans in search of weird fish that’s hard to find anywhere else.

Other offerings, though, are just … different. There’s no reason to believe most of the fillets priced by the pound are less tasty or harder to cook than typical supermarket fare. Yet Davis Herron, Lobster Place’s director, says standard fillets of salmon, tuna, cod and halibut are still the specialty market’s biggest sellers.

It’s no coincidence that the most endangered fish are also staples of the American diet. When we talk about overfishing, we’re referring to individual species that consumers — and the market – latch on to, often to the exclusion of other options. As much as we extoll the virtue of seafood, our enthusiasm for those select few suggests, we’re really not all that comfortable with it.

“There’s a fear of seafood,” said Rick Moonen, a renowned seafood chef who was one of the first to advocate sustainable fishing. “For some reason, people get nervous.” Fish are complicated, expensive and easy to overcook. They’re laced with small, sharp bones ready to choke the incautious diner. They smell. The limited number of species we stick to aren’t exceptions, but at least they’re familiar. Yet by refusing to broaden our options, we’re threatening to eat them out of existence.

Read the full article here.

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