The word sustainable is tossed around a lot when it comes to seafood, but the meaning of that term can be confusing at best. While we could all look at these Bairdi crab legs and think they look absolutely delicious, some people would argue that they come from unsustainable sources. So, what exactly is sustainable seafood? We interviewed Ben Hyman, the owner of Fresh Wild Local Sustainable Seafood, who quit working on commercial fishing boats because he didn’t approve of their practices. Based in Santa Barbara, Ben has long been a champion for sustainability. He focuses on products like local stone crab claws (because they regenerate their claws) and king salmon (which are highly regulated). Our Q & A:
What exactly does sustainable mean?
The word sustainable with regards to fishing is one that’s thrown around a lot. As a fisherman, I only fish for certain species during certain times of the year, in a highly regulated state. In regards to farm-raised salmon, I believe that’s not sustainable because of the waste and the amount of petroleum used.
How does someone find out what’s in season?
We promote self-education. The Monterey Bay Seafood Watch program is a great resource. You can also get in touch with the local Department of Fish and Wildlife and buy from people who promote wild, local products.
On your website, you say you catch hook-and-line. What does that mean?
Hook and line is the most sustainable way of fishing. It means that we catch the fish one at a time. It’s old-fashioned. And we release fish that are too small. There are no unwanted deaths with this method, we can prevent over-fishing.
And lastly, what about consumers worried about mercury poisoning?
Specifically in my business, we only sell small fish and so they’re going to have lower mercury contents. Also, salmon only has a four to five year life-cycle so we don’t see a high mercury count in them.
For more info, check out the PBS episode embedded below on fishing. Also Four Fish: The Future of the Last Wild Food, and American Catch: the Fight for our Local Seafood by Paul Greenberg are also great resources. They’re in-depth explorations of the environmental damage to our own fisheries, our food industries, and our nutrition.
You can buy Ben’s products on Out of the Box Collective’s online storefront.
Food Forward TV is a PBS series about people transforming the way we eat in America. The first episode of the series, Go Fish! (available to stream on the PBS website), tackles the question of how to fish and consume fish sustainably.