July 05, 2019
Choosing BC Foods for your plate Everyday: The Seafood Edition
We’re exploring the easy choices that we can all make to support our own farmers, producers and processors year round. We’re setting out to answer the question:
What are the foods that 365 days a year you can buy that are grown, harvested or produced here in BC?
June is BC Seafood Month so we’re going to look at 5 seafood that you can buy fresh or frozen year round that support BC producers and processors.
We chatted with Chef Robert Clark, author, sustainable seafood guru and co-owner of The Fish Counter to ask to suggest his top 5 picks for local, sustainable seafood available year round.
Chef Rob Clark helped to grandfather the sustainable seafood movement in Canada and in 2005 he was integral to the launching of the Vancouver Aquarium’s OceanWise program. After Executive Chef roles in some of the best Vancouver kitchens and mentorships of some BC’s top chefs (Chefs Robert Belcham, Charlotte Langley, Quang Dang and Andrea Carlson to name a few), he teamed up with marine biologist and conservationist Mike McDermid, formerly the Ocean Wise manager at the Vancouver Aquarium, to open the Fish Counter, a sustainable-seafood shop and eatery on Main Street.
Tell us about your passion of local sustainable seafood.
As Executive Chef, I started trying to find better and better quality seafood – it lead me on a journey to find producers that offer the highest quality. I found out that sustainably harvested seafood aligns very closely to high quality harvest. Buying local and sustainably harvested just made the most sense to me.
Why do you encourage your customers to buy local seafood?
In BC, and in Vancouver in particular, we live on the ocean. It’s simple for me. We should support our local fisherman and harvesters because we want them to be successful and to support a high quality fishery. They are our neighbours and part of our community. To me it’s like buying BC apples, we grow apples in BC so it makes sense to buy local apples.
What do you think is the biggest obstacle to buying local?
Local foods aren’t always available every day – they come in and out of season. If people get information about what is local, the difficult step is knowing when and how to look for products. It’s just a learning process. I encourage everyone to buy local when it’s available.
Tell us about the 5 seafoods you think British Columbians should buy local year round.
1.Wild Pacific Salmon
My first recommendation is always wild pacific salmon. Over the late summer, the five local species come in fresh: Coho, Chinook, Sockeye, Chum/Kita, Pink (Rob’s favourite). Wild salmon can be purchased frozen the rest of the year. It’s nutritious and delicious and it is native to our coast. The different species make salmon culinarily exciting. Depending on the spawning river and the location, the fish has different qualities and a unique taste that tells the story of that place.
Sablefish is a great choice because it’s high in omega 3s. Texture wise it’s buttery and rich (both great qualities in fish). It’s only available in the Pacific from Canada to Japan and it’s available as wild caught and locally farmed. It’s a great product to buy frozen at sea. Due to the higher oil content, the texture works perfectly and ensures that you get to enjoy it fresh.
Pacific halibut are native to the North Pacific, from the Bering Sea and Alaska to Baja California but they are most abundant in the waters off our own coast. Halibut has a delicate flavour, firm flaky meat and not a lot of bones. It’s available fresh from March 15 to November 15. It’s consistency doesn’t make it a great candidate for freezing. It’s a hugely versatile fish from a cooking perspective: it can be baked, broiled, grilled, deep fried or pan fried.
Fun Halibut Facts: Halibut live on the ocean bottom at depths of up to 1000 metres and are the largest flatfish in the world, reaching a length of 2.7 metres and a weight of 300 kilograms.
Spot Prawns are BC’s prawn – they are the best tasting and they are sustainably harvested. The best time of year to get them is when they are being harvested in May and June and delivered to restaurants live. However, frozen tails are available year round. Spot Prawns are versatile too – lots of great preparations.
5.Any farmed shellfish (that includes mussels, clams, oysters, scallops, geoduck)
The BC farmed shellfish industry is world class and are leaders in sustainability. The strengths of our farmed shellfish is not only taste but also the meat to shell ratio. The length and diversity of the microclimates along our coast is a huge asset here – because of the different bays and inlets and the range of species, you can buy sustainably farmed shellfish fresh year round.
Shellfish are also a great source of animal protein – oysters are the most sustainable animal protein on the planet! The Blue Mussel, Japanese Scallop and the Pacific Oyster are a great place to start.
We thank Chef Robert for taking the time to give us some great suggestions for buying local, sustainable seafood.
More about Robert Clark and The Fish Counter:
The co-owner of The Fish Counter since 2012, Robert Clark is committed to providing sustainable, healthy, and high-quality seafood to the Main Street community. And all the fish they sell and serve is Ocean Wise. He focuses on local and seasonal seafood from producers who care as much about the health of our oceans as we do.