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This article appeared in today's Good Living column of tthe Sydney Morning Herald.

It is a long article on fish sustainability, handling, cooking and just about everything in between.

Not a bad article but some holes in it in my opinion..but worth a read.




Fish and tips

Everything you need to know about choosing, cooking and eating seafood

The end of wild fish in our lifetime?

Strange as it may seem, we still know little about ocean ecology. This lack of research, overfishing in the past and the unknown effects of global warming mean the future of what we'll eat from the sea is in doubt. Fisheries management is now cracking down on unsustainable practices, but the number of local species classified as overfished by the Bureau of Rural Sciences rose from five in 1992 to 24 in 2005. It's even more precarious in the northern hemisphere where the collapse of most commercial fisheries by 2050 is predicted by organisations such as the United Nations. It's unlikely we'll see the end of wild fish here, but as demand outstrips worldwide supply, prices will rise sharply.

What not to buy

Opinion varies within the fisheries industry (see box right) but the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) wants southern bluefin tuna off the menu until stocks replenish as well as swordfish, eastern gemfish (hake), redfish and anything from sea-cage aquaculture (ocean trout, salmon, some kingfish, barramundi and yellowtail). Trevally, scallops gathered by hand, leatherjacket and western rock lobsters get a tick. The AMCS sells Australia's Sustainable Seafood Guide to help consumers decide what's good to buy, what's not great and what to say no to altogether. The international Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certifies sustainable species and fisheries. The first certified species in the world was WA's rock lobster and there's only one other certified local breed, mackerel icefish. See http://www.msc.org.

Why is the fish I know now called something else?

They've been talking about it since 1912. Roy Palmer, chairman of Australia's Fish Names Committee, has been involved for 25 years. Soon we'll finally have a legally binding national standard for seafood names rather than 10 names for every fish. Sure, you'll have to stop calling it nannygai and start calling it swallowtail redfish, but slap me with a snot-nosed trevally (now a blue warehou) if it won't finally do away with confusion - and worse, fish substitution. See http://www.fishnames.com.au.

Why farmed fish isn't always fab

According to the AMCS, it can take up to four kilograms of wild fish turned into feed to produce one kilogram of farmed salmon (and up to 12 kilograms to produce one kilogram of tuna). The demands of intensive fish farms on the wild populations used as feed (often caught in unsustainable or environmentally damaging ways) could have tragic consequences. Farmed fish has a "clean green" profile thanks to the undeveloped waterways in which they're fattened, but sea-cage aquaculture is yet to get a sustainability tick from the AMCS. Inland farmed fish, such as trout and murray cod, may well have better environmental outcomes.

What else was in the net?

We all know the dolphin-safe campaign waged against the manufacturers of tuna. When you buy seafood, think of what other things may have been caught in the net. Some fisheries snare seals, dolphins, turtles and more. Some prawn fisheries net 10 times as much "bycatch" as prawns. Line-caught is better than net-caught, while some nets are worse than others. Scallop dredging can destroy sponge gardens and the sea floor. Concerned consumers can encourage fisheries to be more responsible by buying line-caught fish where possible and avoiding dredged scallops. Good fisheries practices can avoid catching seals and other mammals. The Australian Fisheries Management Authority has previously stated every effort is made to avoid unwanted fish geting into Australian fisheries' nets.

Three-hat chefs, one-fish mind

The eight three-hat restaurants in The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide 2007 use only 10 species of fin fish from the 166 species available each week in Sydney. It's a shame, because chefs cook seafood better than most home cooks can. They're our inspiration, so it would be brilliant if they stopped relying on farmed fish and unsustainable species and showed their talents with the fantastic species we need exposure to, such as leatherjacket and trevally.

Why fresh isn't always better than frozen

Familiar with Tetsuya's famous scampi with tea oil? It's worth noting that one of our best restaurants uses frozen scampi. The reason is the quick processing time after capture. Some seafood, particularly shellfish (think prawns, scampi, crabs), degrades quickly and can be better frozen than fresh. To stop their heads turning black, raw prawns that aren't frozen are usually dipped in sodium metabisulphite, which some people say harms the flavour more than freezing. Even wild prawns cooked onboard the trawler can taste better than fresh if frozen within minutes.

What is "sashimi grade"?

Because the Japanese eat fish raw, they are more sensitive to its faults. Better fishing, better handling, better killing of fish means it is stressed less and tastes better. So a line-caught fish that is brain-spiked (iki-jime) and ice-slurried straight away tastes better than one that isn't treated with as much respect.

Why New Zealand mussels are always dead (and dead boring)

The Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service doesn't allow live mussels (and plenty of other seafood) into Australia, so green-lipped mussels from New Zealand are already dead and have already lost that marvellous fresh taste. They're either frozen or cooked, losing all that incredible juice they give up when they cook, as well as the ethereal flavour of fresh mussels.

Which oysters are best for what?

Native NSW rock oysters are some of the finest oysters in the world and are best eaten natural - just-opened and with hardly any flavourings. They can shrivel in seconds when cooked. The bigger, fleshier, faster-growing and milder pacific oyster is better for cooking - especially steamed with a little ginger and soy. The massive oysters you see in Chinese restaurants are likely to be wild pacifics (some can be 30cm long and a decade old).

Why the Sydney Fish Market doesn't have the best seafood in Sydney

Price. Simple as that. You cannot buy the same quality picked crab meat or scallops at the fish market as our restaurants can from good wholesalers, because the fish market is built down to a price, not up to a standard. People go there for a bargain, to get fish they may not get at their local outlet and for freshness. Just about all of Australia's finest seafood is exported and in return we import mostly low-grade product. The best produce is often sold to a chef who's willing to pay twice the price you are.

Why do coastal towns have such dire seafood?

Sydney pays more. Fishermen don't eat seafood. We don't get much call for it 'round 'ere ... The excuses are numerous but if you travel much around coastal Australia, you'll find it hard to buy fresh seafood in a fishing village. The reasons the co-ops give are true but it's a tragedy to visit a co-op only to be offered frozen crumbed fillets in a box. It's up to us to make it stop. Insist on fresh local fish at local chippers. Visit the co-ops and encourage them to sell the fish at the source. Ask regional restaurants why they don't have local fish.

To lemon or not to lemon

Every culture has its techniques to deal with the complex flavours and aromas of seafood. Lemon, particularly, is considered brilliant in an Australian context thanks to the influence of the French. The Chinese use ginger, Italians may use bay leaves. The trick is to match flavours. Australian seafood is often very delicately flavoured (think whiting), so even lemon may overwhelm it. But a touch of acid, be it lime or lemon or vinegar, does add nuances and negates any slightly odd aromas.

What's in the tanks at the Chinese restaurant?

The fish you see at a busy Chinese restaurant aren't usually there for long. Good restaurants pride themselves on clean tanks, unstressed fish and perfect cooking. Favoured plate-sized fish include baby barramundi, coral trout, morwong, perch and parrotfish. When cooked, the chefs aim for a soggier texture than most westerners prefer.

How do I humanely kill a live crustacean?

Chill it. Put it in a fridge or freezer so it goes to sleep, then when it has stopped moving, kill it with a knife through the brain, which is two or three centimetres behind the eyes. Putting a live lobster or crab into boiling water is dumb and dangerous, not to mention inhumane. See http://www.rspca.org.au.

What sauce for what fish?

Oily fish can often taste better with a bold sauce. So while whiting is best with a hint of lemon and a winning smile, sardines can be stuffed with herbed breadcrumbs and served with a caper sauce. The whiter the fish and the cleaner its flavour, the lighter the sauce. More flavoursome fish, such as mackerel, is more likely to marry robust sauces such as those based on tomato.

Should I be afraid of heavy metals?

No. Most fish you'll eat are perfectly fine. Some species (swordfish, shark or flake, marlin and broadbill) do contain mercury in an amount that could pose a risk to pregnant or nursing mothers and children under six. Everybody else is fine.

See http://www.sydneyfishmarket.com.au.

How do I store my fish?

The easy answer? Don't. Don't store seafood; buy it to eat the same day as it loses quality very quickly. If you do store it, keep it very cold, colder than fridge cold. Put it in a container where water can drain off (use a cake rack or upturned saucer in the bottom) and sprinkle with crushed ice, cover with plastic film so it doesn't dry out, and store in the bottom of the fridge. Some live seafood, such as crabs, oysters and mussels, have different needs. Ask your fishmonger, but refrigerate if in doubt.

Fish grilling

What to ask your fishmonger, waiter or supermarket assistant. If the answer is "yes", then throw it back.

Is the species long-lived (more than 20 years) or slow-growing?

If this is the case, the species is likely to be vulnerable to overfishing.

Is it a deep-sea (found below 500 metres) species?

Deep-sea species often have life characteristics (slow-growing, long-lived) that make them particularly vulnerable to over-fishing.

Is it shark or ray?

Sharks and rays have much in common with whales and dolphins. They are slow-growing, long-lived and produce very few young. These characteristics make them vulnerable to overfishing.

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