Eating well, Healthy and Sustainably!


Herring burger
Photo Credit: Katherine Macnaughton

As a self-proclaimed foodie, I strive to eat good food, but does that mean I have to compromise on certain ethical beliefs about where the food comes from and how it is caught, especially fish? Chris and I are both biologists, focused on the ecological impacts that industry or people have on freshwater systems. As a result, we are well aware of all the research supporting sustainable fisheries and how shifting to such practices is a win-win situation for the health of our oceans, the socio-economic standing of local fishing communities, and overall human health. We are however, always questioning the ever-changing state of certain fisheries and are continually asking ourselves how best to implement smarter choices in everyday life. If we have problems making these decisions, we are surely not alone!

I asked my colleagues how they deal with making good, sustainable choices in selecting fish and certain “rules of thumb” came about:

  1. Pick shellfish over any fish you question the provenance of.
  2. Do your homework and be informed on local (Canadian) fishing practices for large-scale fisheries and always have a sustainable substitute.

For example, all Atlantic salmon is farmed in large aquaculture pens in the ocean. There are countless ecological problems with this practice (i.e., sea lice, escaping fish, and decreased fitness for wild salmon populations in the vicinity of these pens) and a reasonable substitute is the farmed Arctic char. This fish is farmed in closed systems that greatly reduce the risk of escapes, disease transfer, and habitat effects (ranked as a SeaChoice “Best Choice” for consumers).

Two more rules of thumb:

  1. Ask your waiter questions: “Where is this fish from?” – “How was it caught?” –
    “Is it farmed?”
  2. Find a fish monger you trust and is like-minded and/or go to restaurants where you know the chef has similar interests.

There are several really great websites that do a fantastic job promoting sustainable choices, locally and worldwide. These include:

Fourchette bleue: a website promoting sustainable, little known fisheries in the Gulf St. Laurent.
Click here for English information.

SeaChoice: a Canadian-based website that highlights sustainable alternatives, presents current news on local fisheries, and provides recipes.

SeafoodWatch by Monterey Bay Aquarium: a well-established program that helps consumers and businesses make better, sustainable choices.

With the rise in consumer demand for sustainable fish in markets and grocery stores, METRO and Loblaws have started indicating Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification of sustainable fish on their products.

That being said, we are inevitably faced with occasions where food choices are made for us. I am not advocating for people to throw their forks and knives at their dinner hosts if they serve tuna tartare. Simply being informed about the food you eat will not only curb your own food practices but collectively bring change to the impact we have on the environment.
A win-win situation all-round!

Herring burger
Photo Credit: Katherine Macnaughton

Here, we have concocted a dish highlighting a delicious sustainable fish infused with some Trinidadian flavours and preparations. Enjoy!

Smoked Herring

1 package smoked herring filets (300 g)
1 tomato, diced
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
½ red pepper, diced
Minced hot pepper (jalapeño, Scotch bonnet) to taste (optional)
Salt & pepper (to taste)
2-3 tbsp. vegetable oil
1 tsp. lemon juice


  1. Place smoked herring into 3 L cold water in a covered saucepan.
  2. Bring to a boil, uncovered, for 5 minutes (longer will remove more smoke flavour).
  3. Drain thoroughly (rinse if desired).
  4. Chill and break the filets up with a fork, removing any bones (they will be very fine, like translucent hairs) and skin remaining.
  5. Heat the oil in a frying pan or wok.
  6. Add onion, garlic, tomato, red pepper (hot peppers optional).
  7. Sauté until the onions are translucent.
  8. Add the smoked herring and lemon juice, mix thoroughly, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.
  9. Season with salt and pepper (or extra hot pepper) to taste.
  10. Serve chilled on a bun, pita or fried bake (as pictured), garnished with a cucumber slaw if desired.

Cucumber Slaw

  1. Slice a washed cucumber once lengthwise, then crosswise to produce thin crescent-shaped sections.
  2. Mix in a bowl with 2 tsp. lemon juice, ½ tsp. brown sugar, ½ tsp. pickling sauce or mustard seed, and 1 tsp. vegetable oil.
  3. Marinate chilled and covered for an hour.
  4. Drain and serve.
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