Sustainable living: Fish


wanted salmon, seared in hot oil until the skin is crispy but still pink in the middle, drizzled with home-made teriyake sauce, served with steaming white rice and stir-fried vegetables, wash down with a glass of Vermentino di Sardegna.

So I put salmon on the grocery list, together with wild shrimps, squid and rode poon (or gurnard, that ugly North Sea fish nobody wants to eat) for our weekly trip to Schmidt Zeevis, one of Holland’s biggest fish dealer. Just to be sure I checked their website for the availability of salmon.

There are enough choices alright, but none of what I wanted. Wild ones, in season. I was even willing to pay a fortune for it. But wild salmon is not in season at the moment. Neither is gurnard. So I’m left with the usual choice, Atlantic mackerel.

I love mackerel, nutritious, affordable and easy to cook. I’ve fried them, grilled them, and cooked them in coconut milk. Whenever my daughter refused the meals that I cook, I give her smoked mackerel with rice. Mackerels are caught in “nearby” waters, Northern Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea and Black Sea so they’re available all year round, like sardines.

But for several months now, we’ve only been eating eating mackerel and gurnard. Sometimes we get lucky when small squids and sardines are on sale but they’re not always available. So our fish diet is consist mainly of mackerel. No matter how delicious they are, it’s tiring eating the same fish all the time. I couldn’t even remember the last time I ate salmon. Or tuna.

For me this is the reality of sustainable eating, eco-living and whatever green term you want to call it. It’s very expensive, it takes patience (like waiting 8 weeks for your next supply of pork), it’s boring (try making cabbage and Brussel’s sprouts exciting) and you’d always be asking yourself, what’s the point? Nobody cares anyway and your effort feels like a tiny drop in the ocean.

I miss eating salmon and tuna. But out of principle I don’t buy the farmed ones. The negative impact of aquaculture (including salmon farming) is still not easy for me to ignore. And tuna is not exactly a North Sea or Northern Atlantic fish.

When we became parents, we became more aware of how unsustainable our society is and decided to change our way of life. One of the things we can afford is not buying farmed fish. Of course, like with any discussion on sustainable living, I can make these choices because I have the means to do so. Others aren’t so privileged.

I also miss eating strawberries and raspberries and peach but they’re not summer fruits and I refuse to buy the ones flown from Peru. I don’t buy avocado anymore. You can bet on it that its carbon footprint is huge, if you’re even remotely aware of where they come from. I allow myself to eat banana once a month and I’m tired of eating oranges, apples and pear.

And right now I really, really want to eat salmon.

But I bought smoked mackerel instead.

P.S. I know that the MSC certificate of North East Atlantic has been suspended in 2019 despite having a healthy stock. But compared to tuna and salmon, I think it’s still a more sustainable choice. You see, sustainable eating can be quite complicated. That’s why I don’t think that the discussion on sustainable living should be simplified in terms like just going organic and going completely plastic-free.