by Kate Frazer
In a day and age when many of us “harvest” most of our meals by filling a grocery cart or skimming a menu, it can be easy to overlook nature’s role in putting food on our tables.
This is especially true when it comes to seafood. For centuries, the oceans' bounty seemed inexhaustible. Now, as scientists unravel the intricate relationships between fish and the vast lands below the water’s surface, we’re gaining a clearer picture of how humans have altered our oceans' ability to provide for us.
The Conservancy is tackling the problems by working with communities to restore degraded habitats and rebuild depleted fisheries. But sustainability also depends on how fish are brought to market.
Can conservationists, fishermen, chefs and consumers work together to find new ways of living off our waters while keeping nature healthy? In five Atlantic Coast communities, I found hopeful examples of people doing just that.
At Miya’s Sushi in New Haven, Connecticut, Chef Bun Lai has taken the next step in his quest for sustainability: He’s tackling the party crashers of the sea by crafting inventive dishes from what’s available and abundant locally — and that includes plenty of invasive species. Among his delicious and artfully arranged creations are Asian shore crabs, lionfish and common periwinkle. Get a taste of Chef Bun Lai's sustainable seafood.
D.C. restaurant Hook’s mission is rooted in the idea that food and environment link every human on the planet. And Chef Jonathan Seningen is helping people get closer to the places where their food comes from — one course at a time. A meal at Hook reveals the complexities of sourcing sustainable fish and how the Conservancy’s restoration work is helping bring back local foods.
The town of Wellfleet was built from the bounty of one of nature’s most captivating creatures: the oyster. But not just any oyster — the one deemed the world’s most delicious. As the Conservancy rebuilds an oyster reef in Wellfleet Bay, shellfish farmer Barbara Austin and restaurant owners Mac and Alex Hay see the project’s benefits for the waters where they work.
When Claire Bissell, Kim Libby and their fishermen husbands Glen and Gary went to a meeting about rebuilding groundfish populations and fishing communities, they returned with a breakthrough idea that would take them from the boat to the farmers' market. The Conservancy has a novel plan too: to help share the costs of testing new practices.
Chef Joseph Margate of Boston’s Liberty Hotel has a great respect for the earth and ocean. Since coming to the East Coast, he’s relished the chance to play with new ingredients and create a menu centered around the bounty of New England — from Heritage varieties of pigs in the Berkshires, to a staggering array of fall apples, to a special turnip native to Westport. Read the Nature Conservancy interview with Chef Margate