Thanksgiving Seafood Ideas

November 21st, 2013

Most of us think of the traditional turkey with stuffing and gravy when we think of holiday meals. But the first Thanksgiving feast actually featured a lot of seafood! Historians believe mussels, bass, lobster, and clams were among the protein offerings at the first feast between the Pilgrims and the Wampanoag tribe in 1621.


In that spirit, we encourage you to bring on the responsible seafood when planning your holiday menus! Fish cook quickly and are a low fat, high protein alternative for those who aren’t fond of turkey or just don’t want to wake up at dawn to put the bird in the oven.

Need some ideas for delectable dishes? Here are a few recipes you can try.

For Starters
Mussels were abundant in New England and colonists occasionally served them with curds, a dairy product with a consistency similar to cottage cheese. If mussels and curds does not tempt your taste buds, try a delicious mussel chowder from Chef Pete Lehmar of Gladstone’s Long Beach, featuring local mussels from Carlsbad Aquafarm.

Another great chowder comes from Chef Robin Higa of Market Broiler Restaurants. Chef Robin has created a delightful crab chowder using local Dungeness crab.

Not into chowder? Start your meal with these delicious crab cakes or a grilled California lobster with herb salad, courtesy of local fisherman Steve Escobar at the Newport Dory Fleet.

The Main Event
U.S. Pacific swordfish and thresher shark are also available for the holiday season. Impress your guests with this simple recipe from SAVOR. Try it with the swordfish, thresher shark, or albacore tuna. The seasonal fruit salsa adds bright flavor and vibrant color to this dish.

Also try these luau skewers.

Pacific sablefish is available year round and it is an excellent substitute for Chilean seabass. Chef Paul Buchanan of Primal Alchemy has shared this Lemongrass Marinated Sablefish with Kaffier Lime Gremolata enticing recipe.

Looking for Local Seafood?
You can get great local seafood at the following locations:
The Dory Fleet – Newport Beach
Ventura Harbor Fisherman’s Market
Community Seafood – Santa Barbara
Santa Barbara Fisherman’s Market
Catalina Offshore Products
Santa Monica Seafood
Channel Islands Certified Farmers’ and Fishermens’ Market – Oxnard
Captain Kidd’s

Check out our Cuisine page for more recipe ideas. Don’t want to cook, let one of our responsible seafood partners do the cooking for you. Find a partner near you on our partners page.

What to Know About Imported Seafood

July 1st, 2013

This Seafood for the Future article was originally published on Menuism on 5/21/13

Whiting and Flounder from the Cape Ann Community Supported Fishery. Photo by mogagraham3.
Whiting and Flounder from the Cape Ann Community Supported Fishery. Photo by mogagraham3.

We often don’t know where the food on our plate comes from. When it comes to seafood, this might be particularly true. While U.S. seafood is among the best managed in the world, we import 91 percent of what is consumed in this country. Much of this imported seafood comes from countries with minimal or no effective management in place to ensure healthy stocks, ecosystems, and communities. Aside from the country of origin, U.S. consumers often have no way of knowing how imported fish was caught or produced, or if future fish stocks, ecosystems, and communities are being protected.

Where is our seafood coming from?

The seafood we eat comes from all over the world. Here’s a list of seafood items and some of the countries that export them to the U.S.:

  • Shrimp: China, Thailand, Ecuador, Mexico, Philippines, Vietnam
  • Atlantic salmon: Canada, Norway, Chile
  • Tilapia: China, Indonesia, Ecuador, Honduras
  • Scallops: China, Canada, Mexico, Japan, Argentina, Philippines
  • Oysters: China, South Korea, Canada
  • Tuna: Mexico, Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Ecuador, Vietnam

Why does it matter?

The fact that the U.S. imports seafood is not so much the issue as how much and from where. The U.S. imports more seafood than it exports, resulting in a trade deficit of $11.2 billion — second only to our trade deficit in oil. While there is room for improvement, it is widely recognized that U.S. fisheries are among the best managed in the world. In fact, a 2009 study commissioned by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) found that U.S. fisheries ranked second in the world for compliance with the U.N. Food and Agricultural Organization’s Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries. The U.S. also has the world’s largest exclusive economic zone (EEZ), or territorial seas, of which nearly 40 percent is designated as marine protected areas (MPAs). These MPAs have varying degrees of restrictions to further enable the efforts of fishery managers to protect our ocean ecosystems.

MPAs are still a new tool, and while little is known about their impacts, statistics show that other management tools such as quotas, limited access, and gear alterations are improving the state of our fisheries and ocean ecosystems. According to NOAA Fisheries’ Status of Stocks 2012, six fisheries were rebuilt (a total of 32 since 2000), 10 were taken off the overfished list, and four were removed from the overfishing list. While these efforts are helping local fishing communities in the long run, every time a new MPA is created, quota is reduced, or new fishing gear is required, it is the fishermen who take a hit by losing fishing grounds, catch, and having to pay to obtain new gear to come into compliance. All of these sacrifices have enabled U.S. fisheries to reach or be on a trajectory towards sustainable levels, and this should be taken into consideration when purchasing seafood, especially if there are price differences.

Buying U.S. seafood supports U.S. fishermen and fisheries

Grahame Nicolson, commercial fisherman at Graveyard Point on Bristol Bay, near Naknek, Alaska. Photo courtesy Sea to Table.

Grahame Nicolson, commercial fisherman at Graveyard Point on Bristol Bay, near Naknek, Alaska. Photo courtesy Sea to Table.

Fishing and aquaculture are important to the U.S. economy. Some key numbers to consider:

  • $4 billion: Average annual value of all U.S. marine fisheries landings from 2008-2010
  • $1.2 billion: Total annual U.S. aquaculture production (freshwater and marine)
  • 1 million: Jobs associated with the U.S. commercial fishing industry
    Buying local helps keep dollars and jobs in the U.S. and rewards those who are abiding by a stringent suite of rules and regulations designed to promote healthy ocean ecosystems and communities.

    U.S. seafood is safe for you and safe for the ocean

    Seafood harvested and produced in the U.S. is subject to strict regulations from a number of state and federal agencies, including state fish and wildlife departments, NOAA Fisheries, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In addition, regional fishery management councils work with NOAA Fisheries to develop management plans specific to their regions. The councils include representatives from the fishing industry, environmental groups, states, and tribes.

    There are about 100 federal laws that guide U.S. fisheries and aquaculture management, including the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Management, Environmental Protection, Marine Mammal Protection, and the Endangered Species Acts. While we may sometimes complain about bureaucracies and red tape, these regulations are designed to ensure that

    • fish stocks are healthy,
    • fishing and farming methods minimize impacts on the environment,
    • the seafood on your plate is safe to eat, and
    • fisheries and farms can provide economic sustainability for those who depend on the industry.

    You know what you are getting with U.S. seafood

    Mislabeling and seafood fraud issues have been a hot topic in the news. Fish caught in the open ocean, outside the jurisdiction of any country, often pass through several ports for processing and packing before being shipped to the U.S., providing lots of opportunities for mislabeling to occur.

    Illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing is untraceable and a major contributor to seafood fraud. It also violates conservation and management measures with negative consequences for fisheries, marine ecosystems, food security, and coastal communities across the globe and often operates with slave and child labor. IUU fishing vessels rob those who are fishing legally of up to $23 billion per year. The U.S. is working with the international community to combat IUU fishing.

    Seafood that is caught and sold in the U.S. has fewer steps in getting from the source to the consumer, and there are checks and balances all along the way. Choosing domestic seafood minimizes fish fraud and the purchase of seafood caught by IUU vessels.

    Greenhouse gas emissions

    Imported seafood often travels thousands of miles to get to your plate. The fossil fuels required to power the ships, planes, trains, and trucks used to transport these products to the U.S. generate greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change. Scientists are still working to determine what effects climate change will have on fisheries, but research suggests that there will be significant impacts on our ocean ecosystems. It has already been linked to the bleaching of coral and shifts in the migration patterns of key species such as anchovy and sardines.

    “Not in my backyard!”

    Carlsbad Aquafarm. Photo by Betsy Suttle
    Carlsbad Aquafarm. Photo by Betsy Suttle

    We can’t have this conversation without addressing the controversial elephant in the room, aquaculture. More than half of the seafood the U.S. imports is from aquaculture, or fish farming. In fact, the U.S. is the leading importer of farmed seafood products. It is second in the world only to China for total seafood consumption and has the largest area of territorial seas in the world, yet domestic aquaculture production only meets five percent of its supply. Meanwhile, the U.S. imports shrimp, tilapia, salmon, and other farmed species from other countries, many of which have minimal regulations in place to protect the environment and local communities. Some of the operations overseas are known to exploit workers, including children.

    Aquaculture production has greatly improved over the last few decades. In 2011, the U.S. released national aquaculture policies to ensure that impacts on the coastal environment and communities are minimal. Rather than importing from questionable aquaculture producers, we must be willing to accept and improve upon well-managed domestic aquaculture to supplement responsible wild-capture fisheries to meet the growing demand here in the U.S.

    Is all imported seafood bad?

    No. Some countries, such as Canada, New Zealand, and Norway, also have strong fishery and aquaculture management programs. And, while health regulations are minimal in some countries, the U.S. FDA does inspect seafood imports to ensure that they are safe for U.S. consumers, though U.S. seafood is subject to more stringent health regulations throughout the production/harvest cycle.

    There are also fisheries and fish farms from other countries that have been certified by credible third-party entities such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), Global Aquaculture Alliance’s Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP), and Friend of the Sea. In some cases, select fisheries are participating in fishery improvement projects with groups like theWWF to minimize their impacts and eventually obtain MSC certification. Certified products should be clearly labeled.

    These are good alternatives, but well-managed domestic sources are the best option for healthy ocean ecosystems and coastal economies.

    Tips for Buying Local and Domestic Seafood

    Get to know your local fishermen

    Just like the farmer’s markets, there are fishermen’s markets scattered throughout the
    U.S. coasts. Take the family to the coast on a weekend morning and strike up a conversation with your local fishermen to find out what the catch of the day is and take home a healthy seafood dinner. You can also sign up for a community supported fishery (CSF) to get a variety of local, seasonal catch. Go to localcatch.org to find a CSF near you.

    Talk to your fishmongers

    If you have questions about the seafood you are buying, talk to your vendors. They should know the details about the product and can suggest alternatives if you can’t find what you are looking for.

    Try a variety of seafood

    Don’t just stick with the same seafood you’ve always been eating. There may be some local seafood items that you have never tried before. By choosing different types of seafood, you also help reduce pressure on highly targeted species. And you may discover some new favorites.

    Know your seasons

    Like fruits and vegetables that have peak seasons, some seafood items can only be harvested at certain times of the year. If you know what is in season, you can select local seafood at its freshest. CSFs are a great way to learn about local seafood seasons.

    Choose suitable alternatives

    If a product you are looking for is out of season or unavailable, ask your fishmonger to suggest alternatives that are from the U.S. Most seafood is available frozen year round, and with today’s technology, frozen seafood is delicious and nutritious.

    In a market dominated by imported seafood, it can be harder to find U.S. seafood, but it is worth the effort. When possible, consider purchasing seafood products that are harvested regionally. Your actions will help support local fishermen, producers, and communities and the long-term health and sustainability of domestic fisheries and aquaculture production.

    To learn more about well-managed U.S. seafood, visit NOAA Fisheries’ FishWatch.


    What You Should Know About Pacific Rockfish

    May 29th, 2013


    You might not have heard much about rockfish, but you might have eaten it more often than you think. This is because rockfish have quite a few aliases. The FDA allows rockfish to be sold under a variety of market names, including Pacific red snapper, rock cod, black bass, and Pacific ocean perch.

    This is not seafood fraud because these are allowable market names. However, in light of the increased incidents of mislabeling the use of the specific species’ name is recommended. This can also help consumers associate specific species to local and responsible fisheries.

    Who is the mysterious rockfish?

    Rockfish (Sebastes spp.) is a diverse group of fish. There are about 100 species in the genus sebastes. Rockfish are primarily found in the Pacific Ocean, though a few species are found in the Atlantic. There are over 70 varieties of rockfish found along the U.S. West Coast.

    Rockfish can be found at many depths – from shallow water to about 9,000 feet. They spend most of their time on the ocean floor on and around – you guessed it – rocks. They can range in size from 1 to 40 pounds.

    Many species of rockfish are very long lived. Some live to be over 100 years old.

    What is their conservation status?

    Because many rockfish are long-lived and take many years to reach sexual maturity and reproduce, they are vulnerable to fishing pressure and poor ocean conditions. In the past, some species populations declined from fishing pressure, but through successful fisheries management some of them, such as boccacio and widow, are no longer overfished. Others are taking more time to recover, but their population sizes have been increasing under the strict rebuilding plans in place..

    Who’s in charge of managing rockfish?

    NOAA Fisheries administers the Pacific Coast Groundfish Fishery Management Plan (Plan) and regulations as authorized under the Magnuson-Stevens Act.  The Plan was developed by the Pacific Fishery Management Council (PFMC), which includes NOAA Fisheries, state agencies such as the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), and commercial and recreational fisheries stakeholders.

    The strategy for managing groundfish has several conservation objectives, such as:

    • Prevent overfishing and bycatch
    • Rebuild depressed stocks
    • Promote habitat protection and restoration

    Under the Plan, which includes 64 species of rockfish, the PFMC, NOAA Fisheries, and West Coast states perform a number of research and management activities to accomplish these objectives. Here, we highlight a few:

        • West Coast Groundfish Observer Program
          • Trawlers are subject to 100% observer coverage and all fisheries under the FMP may be subject to onboard observer coverage.
          • Observers report objective data on landings and bycatch that is used in fisheries science and management.
        • Rockfish Conservation Areas
          • To minimize the bycatch of overfished species, fishery managers established protected rockfish conservation areas. These closed areas were designed based on decades of valuable scientific survey and observer data.
        • Trawl Catch Share Program
          • Fishermen manage their use of catch shares (portions of the overall fishery quota) for harvested species. When they catch their shares, they can no longer catch these species unless they can purchase more shares from another fisherman.
          • This method provides more flexibility for fishermen to manage their businesses and minimize wasteful discards while keeping within strict catch limits .

    What do I need to know when buying and serving rockfish?


    © evgenyb – Fotolia.com


    Purchasing Rockfish

    Local longline-caught rockfish are the best choice, but well-managed U.S. caught rockfish is a responsible choice. Why? Because U.S. federal fisheries are managed under some of the strictest regulations in the world to ensure that they are sustainable. Purchasing these species from fishermen who are operating in compliance with federal U.S. fishery management plans promotes sustainable harvest practices and supports our domestic economy.

    When buying rockfish, look for skin that is bright. If the skin is a yellow-orange color or is wrinkled and looks too large for the fish, the fish is stale. Fillets shouldn’t have signs of browning, graying, or yellowing.

    Cooking tips

    Rockfish has a delicate, nutty, sweet flavor. The meat is lean and medium-firm in texture, with a fine flake.

    It holds up well to baking and remains moist when cooked. The firm texture also makes rockfish suitable for soups, chowders, and stews. In Asian cuisine, rockfish are often served whole, either steamed or deep fried. Fillets hold together better with skin on. While fillets might not be sturdy enough to grill, whole, dressed fish barbecue well.

    Where can I get responsibly caught, local rockfish?


    Newport Beach fisherman Scott Breneman

    If you want to get fresh, local rockfish straight from the boat then look no further than the West Caught Fish Company locker at the Dory Fleet in Newport Beach.

    Fisherman Scott Breneman, owner of West Caught Fish Company, is the fourth generation of his family to sell his local catch at the Dory Fleet.

    Scott grew up fishing and working weekends at the Fleet with his father. After obtaining a bachelor’s degree in biology from Chapman University, he worked on commercial harpoon swordfish and lobster boats where his passion for fishing grew. At the age of 25, Scott purchased his own commercial fishing boat. Today, he owns and operates the F/V Wescott II and F/V Isla Rose (named after his dad’s boat and daughter respectively) out of Newport Beach.

    The Southern California native is dedicated to providing fresh, local, and responsible seafood to restaurants, markets, and residents in his local community. Visit Scott at the Newport Dory Fleet bright and early on Saturday mornings and pick up responsibly harvested rockfish, sablefish, thresher shark, and more to impress guests at a Saturday evening BBQ. For chefs, West Caught Fish Company also offers live fish delivery and processing. Get more information at: Westcaughtfishco.com.

    You can also find fresh, well-managed local rockfish at:




    Chowderfest 2013 is a Success!

    March 22nd, 2013

    Thanks to our wonderful partners, Chowderfest 2013 was a great success!

    Eight chefs put their best efforts forward and created some innovative dishes for nearly 500 people. Their delicious chowders, which featured local and responsible seafood, raised more than $4,000 for Seafood for the Future so we can continue our efforts to promote responsible seafood choices in Southern California.

    The top three chowders were awarded by a panel of judges. In addition, Chowderfest guests voted via Facebook for the People’s Choice Awards.

    Judging the competition was:

    Peter Halmay – President of the Sea Urchin Harvesters Association/Commercial Sea Urchin Diver
    Chef Paddy Glennon – Founder and President of the Culinary Liberation Front
    Russ Parsons – Los Angeles Times Food Editor
    Lori Perkins – Education Interpretation Manager at the Aquarium of the Pacific

    All of the judges agreed that this was a tough competition and we actually had to postpone judging so they could go back for seconds to make a final decision.

    The judges and the People’s Choice agreed on the First Place Award. Chef Pete Lehmar of Gladstone’s Long Beach used responsibly farmed mussels from Carlsbad Aquafarm to create a delicious award-winning chowder. Could his secret ingredient be the Hollandaise sauce?

    Second Place was awarded to Chef Art Gonzalez from Roe. Restaurant and Fish Market. Chef Art served up a tasty chowder duet featuring sea urchin and California spot prawns. The urchins were caught in Santa Barbara by Fisherman Stephanie Mutz of Sea Stephanie Fish. Spot prawns were caught by San Pedro fisherman Chris Hoaflinger.

    Chef Paul Buchanan’s chowder received Second Place from the People’s Choice votes and Third Place from the judges. Chef Paul of Primal Alchemy teamed up with Fisherman Scott Breneman of West Caught Fish Company to feature sablefish in his Thai Curry Chowder. This spicy chowder was packed with flavor and heart-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids.

    Tied for Third Place in the People’s Choice Award was Chef Robin Higa of Market Broiler. He brought California Dungeness crab to Southern California to compete with his delicious chowder. Bacon, heavy cream, and Weiser Family Farm potatoes gave this chowder its rich flavor and smooth texture.

    Chef Michael Poompan’s “escargot” chowder also came in Third in the People’s Choice votes. Chef Michael, from SIP Lounge at the Renaissance in Long Beach, used responsibly harvested Kellet’s whelk from Santa Barbara fisherman Stephanie Mutz. Crispy fried leeks and smoked Weiser potatoes added a nice crunch and extra flavor.

    Chef Brian Hirsty of the Bluewater Grill used our local, clawless California spiny lobster to make his chowder creation. A portion of the spiny lobster was donated by the Santa Barbara Fish Market. This tomato-based chowder was creamy and smooth.

    Chef Curtis Mar from Parkers’ Lighthouse teamed up with Ventura fisherman Jason Woods to create a curry chowder featuring well-managed (but probably less well known) rock crabs. His special ingredients – edamame and sweet potatoes – gave this chowder terrific flavor and texture.

    SAVOR… competed “island style” with a Carribean Chowder featuring local rock fish, white seabass, California halibut, and sablefish. The coconut milk gave this chowder a smooth, yet satisfying finish.

    A number of local organizations also helped make Chowderfest a great event by providing information and education to participants as they enjoyed the chowders. Many thanks to:

    A Sustainable Kitchen
    American Tuna
    Edible Westside
    Fish Contamination Education Collaborative
    Gladys Urban Farm
    NOAA Fisheries
    Sustainable Economic Enterprises of Los Angeles
    U.S. Green Building Council – Los Angeles
    Weiser Family Farms

    And of course we could not have pulled it off without our wonderful sponsors:

    A good time was had by all. We hope you will join us next year for Chowderfest 2014! Until then, visit Seafoodforthefuture.org/Cuisine for these and more responsible seafood recipes.