THE BLOG

A Feast of Seven (Sustainable) Fishes

12/17/2012 03:15 pm ET | Updated Feb 16, 2013
  • Sea to Table partners with fishermen from small-scale sustainable wild U.S. fisheries, finding better markets for their catch, connecting fishermen with chefs.

Among all the ways to celebrate the holidays, we can't help but be partial to the Mediterranean tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, a seafood-centric dinner that takes place on Christmas Eve. Where we come from, any celebration is a good excuse to eat fish, and so come Christmastime we make a point to get in touch with our Italian side.

It's easy to eat fish, but not always easy to know what fish to choose, so we're offering up recommendations for a sustainable seafood feast. We planned this meal with special consideration for the hard-working independent fishermen that brave the seas to bring us our fish, and so each of our choices represents a fishing community worthy of our support and recognition.

Our hope this holiday season is that whether you're preparing a multi-course meal or a humble supper, sustainable and traceable seafood becomes a staple in your kitchen.

1) Atlantic Pollock from Portland, Maine

Though Atlantic Cod has seen hard times, there's plenty of sustainable species still swimming in the Gulf of Maine. One is Atlantic Pollock. A close cousin of Cod, our fisherman friend Terry Alexander describes it as "a good eatin' fish." Best of all, this under-appreciated species drives profit back to traditional New England fishing communities.

2) Squid from Point Judith, Rhode Island

We love a good calamari, but why fry up the tasteless imported squid proliferating the marketplace when you could eat local? Frying up a sustainably managed fresh squid from the waterfront village of the Port of Galilee is a surefire way to rediscover a classic dish.

3) Blue Crab from Cambridge, Maryland

J.M. Clayton is the oldest working crab house in the country. During blue crab season, the fifth-generation family business picks thousands of pounds of crabs bought directly from Chesapeake watermen. No one does it better, and we wouldn't imagine getting our crab elsewhere.

4) Mahi-Mahi from Beaufort, North Carolina

Rapid growing and fast breeding, Atlantic mahi-mahi in many ways epitomizes the perfect sustainable fish. They're abundant along the East Coast, especially in the Mid-Atlantic off of North Carolina's Cape Hatteras, where the Labrador and Gulf Stream currents converge to create a wall of water that's ideal for fishing.

5) Gulf White Shrimp from Port St. Joe, Florida

Wild-caught domestic shrimp gets our vote for the fifth course of our fishy feast. Gulf Shrimp is unmatched in sweet, briny flavor and caught sustainably using special by-catch reduction devices. We especially favor the shrimp landing at Wood's Fisheries in Port St. Joe, Florida, a thriving family-run dock that welcomes the Gulf's best shrimping vessels.

6) American Red Snapper from Destin, Florida

American Red Snapper is one of our favorite fishery comeback stories. A mere decade ago the Gulf fishing community was in trouble due to poorly managed fish stocks and an influx of imported seafood. Now the fishery is sustainably managed using individual fishing quotas (IFQs), and Florida fisherman land abundant American Red Snapper four or five days a week.

7) Pacific Cod from Homer, Alaska

A sustainable alternative to Atlantic Cod on the east coast, Alaska's thriving Pacific Cod fishery is among the best managed in the world. Fishermen harvest Pacific Cod with pots, a method with zero by-catch that does no harm to the sea floor. That's a fish worth eating.