Notes from the Island Fishmonger: May

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During the last 10 years, the controversy over farm-raised vs. wild fish has been a highly debated subject. By no means is this article intended to be a political statement, but more of an eye opener to those of us who enjoying eating fish and how we can contribute to the environment’s health.

If we wish to continue eating clean, healthy and sustainable fish for years to come we must start by protecting the environment and our oceans at the same time.

 As a fish monger, who has paid much attention and researched the situation, this article will contain a lot of facts and also my opinion on this topic. If given the opportunity, I could probably write a book on this concerning matter.

I feel there are pros and cons to both sides of the story, so let’s explore.

On one side, I think we all would agree that farm-raised fish in a box that is pumped with chemicals and color enhancement is an inhumane and unhealthy way of doing things.

But on the other hand, there are ways of doing farm-raised correctly that will provide us with the Omega fatty acids and health benefits that our bodies need. Farm raising has come a long way in recent years.

An example of a good farm-raised product can be found in the specialty fish markets that will have other options such as Irish, Canadian or Faroe Island Salmon.

Irish Salmon is one you will find at Big Water Fish Market. It is raised in the cold, pristine waters of Ireland with a heavy current flow. The nets are not cleaned with chemicals and the fish are raised without hormones or antibiotics with plenty of water to swim and are never injected with color or dyes.

The bad farmed-raised fish is North Atlantic Salmon and that is how it should be labeled. That is what you get when you buy from larger chain grocery stores instead of specialty fish markets.

Recently I watched a Netflix documentary that really hit home. It was an eye-opener for sure. The documentary called Seaspiracy is about our oceans and how we are destroying them. It covers the effects of plastic pollution; our ecosystem; the brutal slaughters of dolphins, whales and sharks in the Pacific Ocean; over-fishing; trolling; and the subject of farm-raised seafood.

I encourage people to watch this show — not because I want to discourage us from eating fish, but because I think we should all be aware of what’s going on in our oceans. Especially the pollution and unnecessary killing of beautiful mammals.

We want to be able to continue eating fresh fish from the right sources. I must warn you: it’s a hard watch.

Candi Messerschmidt of Keep Sarasota County Beautiful picks up trash on Siesta Key during an April 17 cleanup effort. (photo by Jane Bartnett)

On a more positive side, we don’t see much of any of that on the Gulf Coast. Our beaches are cleaned daily by the county and, thankfully, early-morning walkers are also doing their part.

You don’t want to be the person posting pics on Facebook of handling live starfish, mistreating manatees or turtles on Siesta Key. Those are fighting words for us locals.

Best I can tell, there is no recreational over-fishing here as charter captains seem to enforce catch limits. The local fish we eat is wild-caught and inspected by both the Department of Agriculture and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which patrols our waters to ensure limits are respected, prevent over-fishing, and enforce boater-safety laws.

The biggest danger to our marine wildlife, such as dolphins and manatees, are our boat motors. Most of our local boaters are aware and alert and our hope is when tourists visit, they keep these things in mind and are respectful to our waterways and wildlife.

A trout farm in Italy was a great experience for me, with the trout pond located behind the restaurant. The trout was raised properly and was caught to order. Talk about a fresh, sustainable trout dinner that was excellent.

Next time I will avoid the pickled trout appetizer.

Here is something else I bet you’re not aware of: All shellfish, such as oysters, mussels and clams, are farm-raised in ocean beds.

If you think about it, the meat and vegetables we eat come farm to table in one way or another. At Big Water Fish Market, we like to think we are doing our part. We start by only buying our fish from reputable brokers and captains — we do not sell over-fished species, we specialize in local wild-caught fish, and only sell properly farm-raised seafoods.

We also recycle and even replaced our plastic straws with macaroni straws. My hope is that people will start bringing their own shopping bags, like they do in Italy, so we can get rid of the plastic to-go bags.

In closing, we all need to do our part. Recycle your plastics, respect our oceans, and continue to keep Florida beautiful and clean.

Live well … eat fish.          


Scott Dolan
Author: Scott Dolan

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