Seasonality and Seafood

Striper in Massachusetts is fantastic. It conjures up Summer. For many fishermen, cooks, and diners who appreciate this versatile fish, Striper is Summer. I was preparing some recently, and working with the fines herbes to make a compound butter to finish the fish.

Chives, Tarragon, Parsley, Chervil - Fines Herbes

Chervil is a lovely delicate herb that is well-suited to fish, and it's just coming to the end of its season as the Striper is coming into its own. This was a happy occasion when we had access to both. The planning of this meal got me going on topic of seasonality. (See Seasonal Striper)

Striper or Rockfish as it's known in Maryland

Striper roasted and finished with fines herbes

 

The Quest for a Seasonal Seafood Guide

As my friend Braddock Spear (Sustainable Ocean Project) points out, the question of seasonality in fish is a complex and layered - one has to take into account the life cycle, breeding, spawning. Which of us individually can take all these factors into account? Gearing up for Teach a Man to Fish and enjoying our lovely striper, I began to ask around. Seasonality and fish is a complex question. One factor that clouds our understanding of true seasonality in seafood is the year-round marketing and availability. This lulls us into thinking we can (and should) have any fish we want, any time of year. In fact, sometimes frozen seafood is a better choice but whether fresh or frozen we should try to trace the fishing method so we can be assured the fish was caught in the right way and time. Aquaculture, even responsibly done, hides the true nature of wild fish and their seasons, too.

Still, there is an appeal to finding more information about seasonality because it can help us choose more responsibly when we make our seafood selections. Just as your tomatoes in January carry a large environmental cost (and little flavor) so too does fish caught out of season (or caught in season, in another hemisphere and transported to us) carry a cost. While this issue is layered, and tricky to decipher, it seemed worth a little effort.

I checked with my friends at Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch, I checked in with my "fish girls" an informal sustainable seafood lunch group that meets about quarterly to share what we've been working on or learning in this arena. I checked with Chef friends and cookbook authors and many interesting answers came back. From "it's impossible and we should just be eating less fish" to "let me know what you find, we need this!" Many more of the responses were in the "we need this" camp.

With many thanks to all who pointed me in the right directions, here then, is an aggregated list of resources to help you choose more seasonally appropriate seafood.

 

The Institute for Fisheries Research is San Francisco based conservation organization:

Maryland Seafood & Aquaculture:

Gourmet Sleuth is a new site to me, and one you can bet I have bookmarked now! This is where I found both West Coast and East Coast availability charts:

Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute: This site has a wealth of information, recipes, and information. (See my posts on the Seasonal Salmon we enjoyed this Spring and Summer.) The ASMI site also includes an availability chart for Alaska:

This site Seasonal Cornucopia includes a terrific resource guide, though it's not specifically geared to seasonality in seafood, there are links to resources on both topics:

And we now have two online sustainable seafood shops; one for chefs and one for consumers:

 

We'll be addressing these and other issues in our annual Teach a Man to Fish blog event in October. By-catch, over-fishing, illegal/unregulated/ underreported, habitat destruction, aquaculture, CSFs, MSC certification, new books on the topic, newsworthy trends and restaurant/chef news, and more will be covered.

 

What's your favorite seasonal fish? How do you prepare it?

Print or forward the guides that work for you!

Do you have another resource to share?