Pacific Swell | Southern California environment news and trends

The easiest way to order fish in a restaurant?

Knowledge is power, right? Or at least half the battle, says GI Joe. But knowing too much about seafood can have the same effect as a phaser set to stun. That's the way it's been for me since Labor Day weekend, when I went on a marathon bike ride along the coast and I smelled fish fresh off of peoples' poles. After talking to Casson Trenor, who wrote about buying sushi right, I stay away from supermarket sushi. 

And when I do eat out, I tend to stay away from fish, because I moved here from Louisiana, where people in restaurants, even front-of-house, knew where their seafood was from. (And there, if they didn't tell you, you ran.) Here, I'm surprised how often restaurant staff don't know where fish come from, just as I'm surprised my friends can ever stop rolling their eyes at my questions. 

So I sort of think Mike Conathan at the left-leaning advocacy group Center for American Progress had Los Angeles in general and my friends in particular in mind when he offers a simpler solution on his blog. Two words. BUY AMERICAN. 

The simple fact is, despite the seemingly endless barrage of doom-and-gloom stories about the future of fisheries, the United States leads the world in ending overfishing and managing our resource sustainably. This year, a regulation took effect that will ensure every fish sold by a U.S. commercial fisherman is managed with scientifically justified catch limits. In layman’s terms, this means overfishing is now illegal.

Conathan cites NOAA statistics showing that we import a LOT of our seafood - 86 percent of what we eat, last year, when we ate less and brought more from other places. And his column has plenty more about the sketchy fish-checking-principles of other countries. His basic argument is that Iceland, New Zealand, and Australia have similar quality controls and regulatory schemes to our own, but that a lot of other place, like where your frozen shrimp comes from, don't. 

So I tested it out, unscientifically. Some of us reporters met up the other night at King's Row Gastropub in Pasadena to talk shop and swap stories. That place actually tells you that the fish in their fish and chips is Alaskan cod, line caught. After the fact, I checked: lines still can wreck up the sea floor, but they've gotten a lot better. Green means go for Alaskan cod, according to SeafoodWatch. But I didn't bust out the app this time. Mike's advice already did me right.


(Photo of Alaska by Travis S. via Flickr. Licensed under Creative Commons.)