Jun 22, 2009

Eating lies.

Over the past couple of years, I've learned a little bit on how fish are caught, how they're sold, and how they end up on our plate. Some of you may already know this, but we may not be eating what we think we're eating. We're being fooled, even at our favorite seafood restaurant or fish market. Seafood can be re-labeled or renamed as something that sounds familiar or more appealing, farm raised seafood can be sold as wild caught, and restaurants will right out lie and serve you lower quality food with the top shelf name and the top shelf price.

Renaming a fish to something that sounds more delicious has been a clever marketing ploy. Ever heard of Patagonian toothfish? You might know it as Chilean Sea Bass. Channel catfish are sometimes renamed Southern Trout. And my personal favorite, Slimeheads... which have been renamed, Orange Roughy. Many species have zero market value until their names are changed. Just by renaming them, they go from trash fish to upscale dining.

Here are some popular seafood items that are susceptible to the bait and switch. And by bait and switch, I mean douchebaggery. It's almost like ordering a filet mignon, and getting a piece of bologna (aka, Alabama round steak).

What you order:

Sea Scallops

What you get:

Frequently, sea scallops are plugs of muscle punched out of stingray/skate wings or shark fins.

What you order:

Pacific Red Snapper

What you get:

No such thing as a pacific red snapper. You'll be served one of several species of rockfish.

What you order:

White tuna in sushi restaurants, Grouper, red snapper

What you get:

Farm raised Tilapia, Catfish, Pollock

What you order:


What you get:

Mako shark

What you order:

What you get:

What you order:
Wild Salmon

What you get:
Farmed Salmon

What you order:
Fish and Chips

What you get:
Expecting cod? If you're eating it in the UK, it's likely spiny dogfish. If they also give you fake potatoes, that would also add to your embarrassment.

What you order:
Blue Crab, Rock Crab

What you get:
Krab. A crab-like product made from fish. Failure nuggets.

This is the part where I tell you handy tips to ensure that you buy the right seafood. Honestly, its really hard. Going to a higher quality restaurant or fish market obviously helps. Even I still fall for the 12 dollar 'fried grouper' sandwich... and end up with a mouthful of cheap tilapia whilst hating my life.
The more you know.

Jun 17, 2009

That's the smell of desire, my lady.

Yeah, so we did some offshore sampling out of Orange Beach, AL last week for some reef fish. We're conducting a study looking at hook sizes/types, reef types, and fish size. We ended up catching a ton of fish to bring back to the lab for processing. We took otoliths, guts, and tissue samples from several species of snapper, grouper, jacks, and grunts. This was on a Friday.

Our fisheries lab is within the General Biology Building on campus and we do alot of fish processing on the premises. All of the fish "leftovers" usually end up in the dumpster behind the building. And of course a ripe, foul stench usually follows suit after a day or two. Everyone else in the building knows its us, and they kind of deal with it. The dumpster gets emptied twice a week, so it usually doesn't get that bad.

We finish up the processing and the fish parts go into the good ole' dumpster. I left that afternoon to go out of town on a weekend trip to see the family. I didn't get back until Monday afternoon, at which time I was assaulted with phone calls and emails about a very smelly incident up at the building. Apparently the heat index over the weekend soared to over 100 degrees. The bag that the fish goodies were in had been split open due to some local wildlife, and the smell coming out of that hellish dumpster could literally melt your face off. It could gag a maggot.

My favorite email came from the Director of Biology:

Hear Ye, Hear Ye. No animal carcasses are to be placed in the dumpster at the back of the biology Bldg. Please keep in mind that the air intake for the AC system is located over the loading dock and sucks all smells into offices, halls and ultimately classrooms in Bldg 58.

Yes, not only was the god awful fish funk on the outside of the building, but it crept its way up into the A/C and into the building. The WHOLE building was defiled. Luckily, the dumpster pickup is on Tuesdays. I bet the guy driving the garbage truck had to hold his breath for that one. The source of the smell disappeared, but the building still embraces a faint waft of fish death.

Sorry for violating your nostrils everyone.

I'll find another dumpster next time =)

Jun 1, 2009

The ugliest, tastiest fish in the ocean

The monkfish. It's a fish that lays on the sea bottom, and it looks like a flattened turd with some gnarly teeth. When staring at the face of this nature's hiccup, who thinks to themselves, "I want to eat you"?

Only a mother could love this face. Maybe a very blind mother.

People on the northeastern coast also call this fugly pancake with fangs a "goosefish". It is reminiscent of an anglerfish, with its filamentous fleshy lures. When the lures are touched by a prey item (or anything for that matter), the massive maw sucks the snack in and the toothy trap slams shut. Monkfish can be up to 5 ft long, and apparently they taste delicious. The tail meat of the monkfish is very similar to a lobster tail, dubbing the meat "poor man's lobster". The fisheries for the monkfish are in north western Europe and North America, where they use beam trawls to stir up the fish from the bottom and into the trawl net. The beam trawl incorporates a solid metal beam that is mounted on a frame which keeps the net open. The beam is about as long as a bus, and weighs between 4 and 8 tons. It is also outfitted with several tons of tickler chains, which are mounted in front of the beam and function to agitate the sea bottom to "tickle" fish into moving upwards and into the net.

Beam trawls are extremely destructive to marine habitats, digging up to 8cm of sea bottom as they are pulled along. Any vertical habitat the trawls are pulled across instantly turns into a parking lot.

Two monkfish fisheries in the Atlantic have been reported to be "rebuilt" by NOAA's Fishery Service a few days ago, along with Alantic Bluefish and Gulf of Mexico King Mackerel. They were fished unsustainably in the past, and recent management has reversed their diminshed numbers. Despite the rebuilt monkfish population, some supermarkets and fish markets continue to boycott species like monkfish, because of the destructive fishing practices that bring them to the dinner plate.


Honestly, I'd like to try it. I'm pretty open for trying new things, especially from the ocean. But most people after taking one look, would probably rather eat bantha fodder.