Posts Tagged 'sustainable seafood'

“The Office” Star Angela Kinsey and Sustainable Chef Barton Seaver visit the National Aquarium

Seafood fraud is an important issue that hurts our oceans, our wallets, and our health. Last night, at National Aquarium, Washington, DC, guests learned about seafood fraud with experts from Oceana, the National Aquarium, and two very special guests, actress and activist Angela Kinsey and sustainable chef and author Barton Seaver.

Speakers, including Barton Seaver and Angela Kinsey, informed guests about the importance of stopping seafood fraud

Guests had the opportunity to participate in a special seafood tasting prepared by Chef Xavier Deshayes, executive chef at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, showcasing how easily species can be substituted.

Can you tell which fillet is mislabeled?

In a recent report, Oceana found that while 84% of the seafood eaten in the United States is imported, only 2% is currently inspected, and less than 0.001% specifically for fraud. Recent studies have also found seafood may be mislabeled as often as 25–70% of the time for fish like red snapper, wild salmon, and Atlantic cod, disguising species that are less desirable, cheaper, or more readily available.

“As a mother and a seafood consumer, I want to know what I’m putting on the dinner table for my family,” said Kinsey.

This reception followed a full day for Angela and Barton. The team traveled with Oceana through Washington, DC, with stops including a Hill briefing at the Capitol Visitor Center, where they called on Congress to pass pending legislation aimed at fighting seafood fraud and illegal fishing.

Click here to find out more about seafood fraud and Oceana’s new campaign.

National Aquarium CEO John Racanelli and sustainable chef & author Barton Seaver

The foundation of the National Aquarium’s mission to inspire conservation of the world’s aquatic treasures is public awareness and education. Choosing sustainable seafood is an easy and impactful action every consumer can take for the future health of our ocean. Like Oceana and our honored guests, we strive to provide opportunities to share knowledge about thoughtful seafood choices with programs like our Fresh Thoughts sustainable seafood dining series.


Thoughtful Thursdays: Paiche, the Peruvian behemoth

From Animal Planet Australia: Wild Extremes Curator John Seyjaget: 

Last week, I journeyed to Peru with two friends of the National Aquarium, Chef Xavier Deshayes and Kelly Morris, in search of  the South American Arapaima gigas, a behemoth of a fish that lives in the Amazon. As the largest freshwater fish in the world, this giant can reach a maximum size of 2 meters and 200 kg.

The South American Arapaima gigas or paiche, as it is commonly called in Peru

My journey took me some 4,268 miles from the Aquarium in Baltimore, MD, to Newark, NJ, to Lima, Peru, and finally to Yurimaguas, a remote village on the banks of the Huallaga River, part of the Amazon River Basin. Transportation along the way included planes, buses, cars, and rickshaws.

Peruvian rickshaws

The fish we were there to see is the Arapaima, commonly known as paiche, an apex predator in the Amazon. The paiche belongs to a group of fish called bony tongues, and is the largest of the seven types of bony tongues worldwide (there are three in Australia, one in Africa, and three in South America).

The paiche is unique in many ways. It is a fossil record—this fish dates back to more than 65 million years unchanged by evolution. And it breathes air! The paiche must surface every 15–20 minutes to gulp air, which it processes in its swim bladder to extract its oxygen needs. The paiche is also a buccal incubator, which means that after the female lays eggs and they hatch, the male picks up and keeps the babies in his mouth for the first 4–6 weeks while they grow.

Paiche is revered as a local delicacy. The fish flesh is white, thick, and tender. It is high in collagen and is therefore great for grilling, searing, and frying. Although illegal to fish in Peru, paiche is still hunted by the river villagers. Villagers claim that the flesh of the paiche is better than beef.

The local wild paiche is now on the endangered species list because of overfishing. Farming the paiche not only creates a profitable export product, but also creates jobs, provides a food source for the local people, and relieves hunting pressure on local wild paiche populations. It also allows the seeding of natural habitats with captive-raised specimens to assure the growth of the wild populations.

The farm we visited has more than 130 ponds holding more than 100,000 paiches each, including 100 adult breeding pairs.

Paiche farm pond

The farm feeds these fish organic foods made from bycatch squid with no chemical additives. The adult fish reproduce in captivity without the aid of hormones or any chemical manipulation.

The fish produced here are harvested at 18 months of age, when they are about 1 meter long. They are caught in seine nets and taken to a processing plant nearby where they are processed and frozen. Almost none of the fish is wasted. Besides the flesh of the fish, the heads are skeletonized and used for museum and educational artifacts, the scales are used for nail files, and the bony tongues for medicinal purposes. The fish produced here is exported to Europe and the United States.

Holding a large paiche

So why did we travel all this way to see a fish farm? Today’s food needs are putting a lot of pressure on our natural resources, forcing environment degradation and species extirpation and extinction, sometimes resulting in an ecosystem collapse. The National Aquarium hosts Fresh Thoughts Sustainable Seafood events at both our Baltimore and Washington, DC, venues. The Fresh Thoughts initiative looks at resource sustainability, and presents sustainable seafood alternatives to our guests. If individual consumers support sustainable seafood choices, we can make a difference in fish populations and the health of our oceans worldwide.

Chef Xavier, executive chef at the Ronald Reagan Building, creates the menus for the Washington, DC, Fresh Thoughts events. To advance the Aquarium’s Fresh Thoughts initiative, Chef Xavier asked that I accompany him to Peru to see firsthand the sustainable aquaculture of this fish.

Chef Xavier

Although the farm is productive, shows green potential and is sustainable, as an Aquarium curator, I was more impressed with the breeding and husbandry success of this species and the scale to which it is done. I look forward to exploring similar sustainable aquaculture!

You can taste the results of this journey for yourself at the Fresh Thoughts dinner on Wednesday, April 25, when Chef Xavier will serve up delicious paiche. Learn more and make a reservation here.

Now serving, red lionfish

The National Aquarium’s DC venue recently teamed up with several east coast eateries to introduce a unique sustainable lionfish blogseafood menu item, lionfish, whose taste is distinctive as its story.  

 The Red Lionfish is an invasive species with strong defense mechanisms in its venomous pectoral spines.  It preys on fish, shrimp and crabs and have even been observed feeding on fish more than half their total size!

The National Aquarium’s research team has observed a tenfold increase in lionfish numbers in the Bahamas from 2005 to 2007, with ongoing spread throughout the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.  In 2009, researchers were dismayed to confirm the arrival of the Red Lionfish in the Florida Keys. Ongoing research continues to determine what effects these invaders are having on native marine ecosystems.

At a time when concerned vendors, restaurateurs and diners are seeking sustainable seafood choices, the Red Lionfish may provide a commercial opportunity as well as a means to controlling an invasive species in the Atlantic. With so many fish stocks over exploited, the lionfish offers a great-tasting fillet (similar taste and texture to Tilapia) and a new product for the Atlantic- based fishing industry. 

Continue reading ‘Now serving, red lionfish’

Making smart seafood choices

Around the world, people are eating seafood more than ever before. Everyone has heard the term, sustainable seafood, but what exactly does it mean for consumers?

By definition sustainable seafood is seafood from either fished or farmed sources that can maintain or increase production in the future without jeopardizing the ecosystems from which it was acquired.

Fishing practices worldwide are damaging our oceans—depleting fish populations, destroying habitats and polluting the water.  The sustainable seafood movement has gained momentum as more people become aware about both overfishing and environmentally-destructive fishing methods.

So what can you do? Make ocean-friendly seafood choices when dining out or purchasing seafood at the grocery store. There are plently of sustainable seafood guides available online to help you make smart choices. The National Aquarium supports the Seafood Watch Guide that is prepared by the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Interested in learning how to prepare sustainable seafood?  The National Aquarium is introducing a new dining series that celebrates sensible and scrumptious seafood choices. Fresh Thoughts: A Seafood Dining Trilogy will consist of three unique events that feature educational cooking demonstrations and seated dinners overlooking the Aquarium’s coveted view of the Baltimore Harbor. Click here to learn more!  And if you have a favorite recipe or local restaurant that offers sustainable seafood, please share with us.


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