Thursday, November 26, 2009

Caught Up with Halibut

It ripped my soul apart to read that halibut is one of the fish I should avoid - meaning, no fish and chips and no Burrito Bandidos' fish burrito - but I guess it would hurt more to see the oceans empty.

But there are some ways to get my fish fix - as long as choose from the 'Best Choice' list on SeaChoice. SeaChoice categorizes hundreds of fish into three categories:

1. Avoid: Avoid seafood items from this list for now. They come from farmed or wild sources with a combination of critical problems - habitat damage, lethal impacts on other species, critically low populations, or poor management.

2. Some Concerns: Some Concerns seafood should be consumed infrequently, or when a green choice is not available. There are concerns with abundance, management, or impacts on habitat or other marine life.

3. Best Choice: Best Choice items are well managed, abundant, and caught or farmed in environmentally sustainable ways. (Hooray!)

If you visit the website, you will be able to download Canada's Seafood Guide. Once you print it out, it folds up to the size of a business card so you can keep it with you when you are deciding what to eat.

Canadian and Atlantic halibut caught by trawl are among a long list of fish to avoid. Canadian Pacific and Atlantic bottom longline caught Halibut is listed under another long list of fish to be concerned about. The lists are long and depressing; have we really fucked up the ocean this bad? Think of all the animals that are forced to eat toxic fish because we have scraped the oceans clean and left our mess behind.

Canadian Atlantic hook-and-line Haddock is my best choice. The beads of sweat only addicts get when they are told they are not allowed to indulge in their vice are beginning to retreat from my brow; I know that Burrito Boys on Adelaide (right below Smokes Poutinerie) serves Haddock.

But is their Haddock caught hook-and-line from the Canadian Atlantic, or is it the haddock that SeaChoice has listed under 'Some Concerns' column (bottom longline caught in the U.S. Atlantic). And if it was caught by trawl, then no matter where it's from it is to be avoided.

All I want is to eat fish 'n' chips guilt-free and for that I require sustainable ingredients. But it seems so ironic to question the source of fish in a dish that was made popular by trawl fishing during the industrial revolution. But I will do it.

I don't know where I adopted the feeling that asking whether the coffee is fair trade or where my fish is from makes me look like a snobby yuppie, but I have got to learn to brush that off. I am the one eating and so why can't I ask about my food? Maybe I don't ask because it's embarrassing to be so admittedly disconnected from my food.

Man, I really could use a halibut burrito or some fish 'n' chips right about now

I called Burrito Bandidos, but it was lunch time and no one answered the phone. Desperate for halibut, I called Harbord Fish 'n' Chips. I explained that I am on a hunt for sustainable fish and chips and asked if they could tell me where they got their halibut.
"Wholesaler catches fish."
"Do you know where?"
"Do you know how they catch the fish?"
"I could call and ask the wholesaler myself if you have the number"
"....ok, thank you for your time."

Not super successful, but after searching 'Alaska Halibut' I discovered I had all the information I needed: Alaska. Thankfully, commercial Pacific halibut fishing is regulated by the International Pacific Halibut Commission. They hold yearly meetings to review research, check progress of commercial fisheries, and make new regulations when required. Four billion pounds of seafood are taken out of Alaskan waters annually so it is hard to imagine how they will stay robust. Most halibut is caught with bottom longlines ( the sustainable choice) and for now, all my sources tell me it's ok to eat Pacific Halibut (once in a while).

For more information:
Global Fisheries Crisis and How to Help (National Geographic)

EU news about illegal fishing

David Suzuki and sustainable seafood

A list of Canadian Ocean Wise restaurants

Jamie Kennedy supports sustainable fishing

Environmental Defense Fund


Take Action!


  1. Oh this is great to know! I enjoy halibut about twice a year but always REALLY enjoy it! :)

  2. You have a lovely blog and congrats on the foodie blogroll!


  3. Nice Blog. I Like your post at above. Good Work.

  4. Technically eating all the halibut won't leave the oceans empty, just devoid of halibut.



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