Friday, February 24, 2006

So the dieticians are telling us to eat fish three times a week and the environmentalists are telling us not to. Well, not to eat endangered fish.

Do you know how hard it is to find a list of fish that you can eat without ruining the environment or depleting the seas forever?

It took me about an hour, with some innovative search terms, but eventually I found some information. You have to *know* about a thing called the Good Fish Guide. Everything else takes you to the Endangered Fish Alliance which tells you the four fish you shouldn't eat ever. Big help. None of them are cod, and I do know that is being overfished, certainly in Europe. Perhaps not in the US.

The Good Fish Guide, however, is for the UK. And it has somewhat different information to the Viswijzer, which is for the Netherlands. How far apart are the two countries? 45 miles?

Scottish Salmon is on the avoid list for the Netherlands, which may be part of the problem. However, let's stick to the exercise in hand, and find out what fish are sustainable and what we can eat. And let's see what the lists have in common.

1) Pacific salmon. Well, this is really useful. The pacific ocean is on the other side of the world from here, and I've never seen pacific salmon offered anywhere here. That limits us to frozen pacific salmon in reality.

2) Mussels. Well, it's hard to walk around the Netherlands without stumbling over fresh mussels everywhere you go. But they're not something I would eat three times a week. Especially as Paul has a thing about shellfish. (Mostly, it makes him gag.)

3) Hake. Yay South Africa. I've seen this in England but not much in the Netherlands. I guess the distance is the real problem once again. So we're still left with frozen.

4) Oysters. I've never acquired the taste for oysters, so please don't even consider overfishing them on my account.

5) Alaska pollack. I buy this for the cats. It's always frozen, I've never seen it fresh.

6) Herring. This is a dead ringer for the national dish of the Netherlands. The cats won't eat it, maybe the Dutch kitten will. You need to serve it with masses of raw onion not so much to disguise the taste, which is OK, but the texture.

7) Pollack from the North Sea. Well I've never seen this anywhere, but that should be fresh enough.

8) Sprats. I presume that's what sprot translates as. I've never eaten them, but I gather THE way is dipped in flour and flash deep-fried.

9) Pacific halibut. Looks like the Pacific has sustainable fishing all round. Pity it's so far away. Then again, maybe it's a good thing it's so far away. There's a reason overfishing is a problem here, and the argument that we've been fishermen for generations doesn't hold if there's no fish to leave for your grandchildren.

10) Grey gurnard. (This is poon in Dutch). I've seen recipes for poon, but never the fish itself. Perhaps it's time to start widening my fish shop horizons.

11) Pouting. Whatever that is.

12) North Sea Shrimp. UK includes Dublin Bay prawns, and the Netherlands includes Hollandse Garnaal. Surprise.

And that's what they have in common. On the Dutch Acceptable list there is also European Catfish, Red Mullet, Crayfish, Haddock (on the UK avoid list), Turbot and Tilapia.

The English list is quite a lot longer, but they don't have a Grey Area like the Dutch list. (The Grey Area is preferable to the Avoid list, but really they'd like you to stick to the Acceptables.)

From the Grey Area I think I'll stick with the occasional Norwegian Salmon but for the rest they're not fish I know. What is clear, is that the list is very short. Most of the fish readily available here falls into the Avoid list.

Looks like I'll have to start planning holidays in the Pacific if I want to eat more fresh fish.