Buying local seafood when it is in season from a trusted source is one of the small, simple steps you can take to improve not only your physical health but the health of communities and industries in North Carolina. We found an excellent resource addressing general local seafood FAQs that walks you through the basics of buying local seafood. We reprinted our favorites below.
What can you do to support local and sustainable seafood?
- Buy local! Removing links in the supply chain and purchasing from regional sources makes it easier to know which boat the fish came off, how long the boat had been out, and how and where the fish were caught. Buying local also means that your fish will be fresher and taste better. Doing so helps support a more sustainable way of life and better jobs in traditional fishing communities. Eating local seafood means fishermen get a better return on less catch—which in turn means the ocean gets a break. Money spent locally tends to stay in the community. Buying from a community-based fisherman also ensures to some extent that you are eating fish that is “in season” rather than perpetuate the century-old demand for “any seafood, any time” regardless of the ecological consequences.
- Eat fish that looks like fish! Stay away from overly processed fish that is turned into squares or fingers or some other shape. And don’t be afraid of whole, bone-in fish. Good cooks know that’s where the flavor is!
- Avoid fake or imitation seafood products. The majority of fake seafood products comes from factory style fishing operations. Alaska Pollock is probably the number one fish that is on the market today in just about every form and shape. It’s turned into surimi to make fake lobster or crab or some other fake seafood product. Incidentally, like herring, Alaska Pollock is an important part of the North Pacific’s food web.
- Be flexible and try diverse varieties.
- Ask how, where, and when your fish was caught. Doing so lets your waiter or chef know you care about their buying choices.
How are local fish regulated?
In 1976, the Fishery Conservation and Management Act (now known as the Magnuson Stevens Act) created eight regional fisheries management councils to develop management plans for their fisheries. The original intent of the Act was to limit fishing by foreign vessels in U.S. waters, and while it subsidized the growth of the U.S. fishing fleet, it did nothing to address overfishing and other resource conservation issues. Since then, Magnuson-Stevens has been reauthorized twice, each time increasing conservation measures, including mandates on annual catch limits and accountability measures to reduce bycatch and end overfishing. The U.S. now has some of the best managed fisheries in the world, although small-scale domestic fishermen continue to struggle as the seafood market expands globally, consolidation of fishing rights increases and imported farmed fish competes with domestic wild-caught fish. Tighter restrictions mean domestic fishermen are limited in how often they can fish and how much fish they can land.
Are fish seasonal? Which ones are the most abundant?
We may not think of seafood as being seasonal, but like fruits and vegetables, it is. As wild creatures, fish have clear-cut, seasonal cycles of breeding, roaming and spawning that dictate where and when they can be caught. Some types of seafood are seasonal because of the fishing regulations in place.