Monday, May 9, 2011

HM: The Fish Head is Good

Her eyes gaze heavenward. The fish lips hang slightly open. Is she trying to tell us a secret? To be honest, the Fish Head looks a little worried. Being a fish that's understandable. Given the state of the world's fisheries, and humanity's continuing love affair with seafood; if I had gills, I'd be worried too. One thing that's no secret is that the source of our seafood is in serious trouble.

Southern Blue Fin Tuna are now listed as "critically endangered" by the IUCN

According to recent studies by International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 90% of the oceans predators have been wiped out. That's all those big, long lived species like sharks, Blue Fin tuna and swordfish . A longer life span often means a species has a slower reproductive rate. So it takes longer for these populations to recover their numbers. In the meantime, prey species' populations can explode with no hunters left to weed out the sick and the weak. The balance in our oceans took millions of years to perfect and we seem to have knocked it out of wack.

Is the situation hopeless? Hardly. Consumers are responding positively to programs that help them make informed, sustainable seafood choices. MSC (The Marine Stewardship Council) is probably the world's leading certification and ecolabelling program. Superstore (and all of the Loblaws companies) along with Walmart have joined with MSC to phase out all unsustainably sourced seafood products. Walmart thinks they can do it by 2015. Loblaws says 2013. Overly optomistic? It depends on us. As consumers we create the demand. Say no to unsustainable seafood and the incentive for companies to supply it will dry up.

Sanbiki is proud to have been the first Japanese restaurant in Canada to partner with the Vancouver Aquarium's Oceawise program back in 2007. Nowadays hundreds of restaurants across Canada have jumped on board. A recent visit to YVR demonstrated just how much momentum the sustainable seafood movement has picked up. Chains like Panago Pizza and Cactus Club are displaying the Fish Head symbol next to seafood items on their menu that are deemed good choices for the environment. Even old school seafood joints are getting onboard.

Joe Fortes has been a Vancouver landmark since 1977. All polished wood, walls of fine wine and super-polite servers in super-starched shirts. As a kid I remember it was reserved exclusively for very special dress-up occasions. A recent visit proved that old dogs can learn new tricks. The Fish Head featured prominently on Joe's menu. Check out the gorgeous seafood platter below. It's (almost) all locally sourced and sustainable. Seafood tastes so much better when you know it'll be around for the next generation to enjoy!

Chefs are challenging their guests minds as well as their palates. C Restaurant's Robert Clark was a founding member of Oceanwise and is recognized as one of Canada's top chefs. He has been experimenting with "non-traditional" ingredients like jellyfish, sardines, and sea urchin roe made into mousse. Definitely more interesting than your average farmed Tiger Prawn cocktail! Shrimps are still delicious and they can be sustainably sourced. Chef Clark shows off some beautiful B.C. Spot Prawns. They are coming into season now and are great raw or cooked!

You will always find lots of good stuff on Sanbiki's menus, both from an environmental and taste perspective! BC Albacore Tuna, wild Sockeye Salmon and crispy panko-breaded oysters are always available. We never buy Blue Fin Tuna, but usually can get Big Eye Tuna. It's similar in taste and texture but is hook and line caught in the Pacific where the fish are plentiful. Next door at Mori Mori Asian Grocery we sell the same sushi quality, sustainably sourced BC Tuna and Sockeye Salmon. We also carry local smoked and fresh frozen trout, octopus and lots of other specialty items!

More blogging to come.... "Street Meat" (food trucks) and noodle restaurants are two more trends that are gaining ground down in Vancouver and elsewhere. More on that next time!

Sanbiki looks forward to seeing you soon!