The San Fran Bay Series: Monterey Bay and Sustainable Seafood

30 Jan

Over the holidays, I went to visit my brother who lives in the San Francisco Bay area.  He is a Renaissance man – athlete, artist, academic, and all-around-great-guy.  On top of that, he has a super refined palate!  So when I showed up at the airport, I wasn’t surprised to hear he made several reservations for us between Monterey Bay to Napa Valley.

Monterey Bay

Monterey Bay

When my brother and I went to Monterey Bay, we ended up spending more time than we had planned at the gorgeous Monterey Bay Aquarium.  I loved watching the feeding shows!

We ducked out for a quick lunch at The Fish Hopper .  While their fried calamari should be avoided (tasteless, over-battered, under-fried), I must say the crab cakes with papaya relish were superb.  Although listed as an appetizer, generous portions were served.  The cakes were crispy on the outside and full of fresh Dungeness crab, with no fillers, on the inside.  Also, I have to applaud the drink list for featuring this epic cocktail:

The Ultimate Seafood Bloody Mary

The Ultimate Seafood Bloody Mary

In case it’s hard to see, it’s an ‘Ultimate Seafood Bloody Mary’ cocktail, featuring Absolut Peppar Vodka with their Signature House Made Mix and garnished with a fresh oyster, bacon-wrapped prawn, crab cake slider, Dungeness crab meat in a lemon cup, crab-stuffed olives, pickled green beans, hot peppers and a lemon wedge…

…I know, right?!  I wish I tried it.  Regrets, big time.

My biggest food takeaway from Monterey Bay wasn’t from the meal nor the beast of a cocktail above, but from the Aquarium’s revitilization of my desire to become a conscientious consumer of seafood.  I am a big, big fan of seafood.  I love a freshly shucked osyter, sashimi, beer-battered fish, poached shrimp with homemade cocktail sauce, seared scallops…the list goes on. And on.  But I’ve been hesitant in my consumption because I know 1) not all fishing practices are sustainable and 2) polluted waters are hurting a lot of sea creatures and then, me, after I make a tasty dinner.

So this is where The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s super awesome fantastic Seafood Watch steps in.  This program provides guidance on making choices that affect the health of our oceans, and inevitably, our own lives.  By using a science-based, peer-reviewed process to create recomnmendations of what is safe to eat, the program encourages consumers and businesses to support seafood that is fished or farmed in ways that don’t harm the environment.  You look up what you feel like eating (Hmm, how about Barramundi for dinner?) and it will tell you the Best Choice (sourced from U.S., farmed in recirculating systems), a Good Alternative (sourced from Australia, farmed in fully recirculating systems), and what you should Avoid (sourced from Indo Pacific except Australia, farmed in open systems, or Indonesian wild-caught).

They have a handy free app for your smart phone that is SO easy to use while you’re at a grocery store or a restaurant.  Does the menu not say where they sourced the seafood?  Never be afraid to ask – because they really should know.  Get the dialogue going!  It’s worth it to help save our health and our home (you know, Earth).

This is what the app looks like:

Seafood Watch

Seafood Watch

Don’t have a smart phone?  No problem, you can download/print off a paper guide (check back often because it gets updated!).

If you eat seafood, and you want to be able to make scientifically-backed decisions that support the health of our oceans and our bodies, then I encourage you to check out Seafood Watch and download this app.  Each of us totally have the ability to leverage our purchase-power to change the approach to fishing and seafood farming.

The next time you hear form me will be the last of the San Fran Bay Series: the long awaited drool-worthy Morimoto Omakase (yes, all Seafood Watch approved dishes!).

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