We got the following email the other day which prompted a reply on a subject that’s got a lot of responsible chefs scratching our heads. Here’s the Q and A so you can think about your own tradeoffs. We’ll keep updating you as we find more info to help us meet the challenge to our fisheries.
Q. “We enjoyed a wonderful meal at your restaurant this past Thursday, particularly enjoying the salmon. One member of my party had the Halibut, as you ran out of the salmon….. The waiter mentioned that the Halibut came from the Atlantic (from Maine I believe). I have since read that the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch suggests that wild caught Atlantic Halibut be “Avoided” due to over-fishing. Is Craigie aware of this suggestion?
A. We’re definitely aware of the suggestion and the Monterey Seafood Watch. Unfortunately acting on these advisories is not always so black and white. The timing of this question is ironic as I just participated in a meeting with the Chef’s Collaborative on this very subject and I’ll be sitting on a panel at their conference in Boston this fall that will touch on this and related topics (and I’ll be doing a few demos as well!). Unfortunately there is no perfect scale we can use for fish in the local vs. sustainable argument to help us decide what to do. Just consider these options: Small Day-boat, line-caught fish from Maine vs. Day-boat dragger fish from Gloucester vs. organically farm-raised hiramasa from Australia that flies around the world..You can see that the tradeoff isn’t obvious or easy..
Certainly the halibut population is a worthy consideration, but so is the sustainability of the local fisheries and the fishermen whose livelihood rely on a catch that is exponentially restricted now compared to just a few short years ago. We avoid gill-netted and dragger fish, and focus on local and sustainable. I think Monterey’s advisory can be a great guide, especially for consumers who often rely on supermarkets that might be buying from larger, long trip boats with greater by-catch issues.
All in all it’s more than challenging, but to sum up Craigie’s bottom line – we’re proud to serve the halibut we cook at the restaurant.