Our oceans are overfished; what species remain are under increased pressure from global fisheries. Paul Johnson, author of the book “Fish Forever”, proposes that consumers change their habits and “eat down the food chain”. Instead of eating large fish like tuna, swordfish and salmon, consumers should consider keystone species like herring, sardines and squid, which exist in greater supply and have less accumulated mercury than larger fish.
[This image was made possible with generous funding from Google.]
Monterey Fish Market
San Francisco, CA
9 December 2010
Fish atop the food chain (tuna, swordfish², sharks, etc.) are BIO-ACCUMULATORS; they may have high levels of heavy metals like mercury in their systems (it takes 30lbs of “keystone species”³ like sardines to make 1lb of tuna). Including keystone species in our diet would result in ingesting less heavy metals and a reduction in the over fishing of larger species. Over 40% of the protein fished from the world’s oceans are keystone species. They are used to feed pigs and chickens (and even farmed fish). By shifting our eating habits we can turn these fish into a healthier protein source.
1. This “food chain” is actually less a linear set of connections with apex predators (like swordfish²) at the top and algae at the bottom, than a MARINE FOOD WEB featuring a myriad number of complex interdependencies based on the conversion of sunlight into protein.
(Russ⁵ includes a number of recipes featuring keystone species³ like sardines⁴ at his Oakland restaurant)
Forage fish are the “keystone species”³ that support the entire marine food web.
1) begin by first gutting and scaling the fish (removing the head right behind the gills)
2) rinse quickly and pat dry
3) brush the sardines with olive oil and season inside and out with sea salt
4) Grill over medium hot coals on both sides until crispy brown. Do not over cook!
1) grind whole chihuacle, espellette or guagillo chiles (splash boiling water over chiles to soften)
2) pound garlic with mortar and pestle and add to chiles with a pinch of salt, a squeeze of lime and good olive oil. Serve with half a lime and an herb salad. Fish tastes better cooked on the bone.
Paul Johnson is from Berkeley, CA and founded the Monterey Fish Market in 1979. It is a business that promotes ocean conservation and sells sustainably-caught and cultured seafood. A former chef and the co-author of The California Seafood Cookbook, Paul currently serves on the advisory board of the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program.
When Restaurant Goers Eat Down the Food chain (NPR RADIO)