Commercial Fishing, Sustainability and Environmental Impact

Commercial Fishing
Longlining

Longlining —> Longlining is one of the most productive methods of catching fish. Lines of varying lengths, some as long as 50 miles, are rigged with baited hooks at set intervals throughout the water. Bottom fish such as cod, halibut, and monk fish are caught with anchored lines set horizontally and are marked with surface buoys for Tuna and Mahi Mahi, whereas swordfish lines are set closer to the surface.

Horizontal lines are also employed and anchored to the bottom and buoyed on top. Longlining is a controversial fishing method because it indiscriminately catches unwanted fish species as well as marine mammals and birds, in particular the albatross. Methods deemed friendly to sea birds include fishing at night and setting streamers on the lines to scare the birds away. Eliminating, minimizing, or utilizing waste from fish fabrication is another step in the right direction. New methods are turning the fish by-products into usable fish meal on board the vessel. This encouraging development goes a long way toward true sustainability.

Gillnetting

Gillnetting —> Gill nets are long walls of nets set close to or below the surface, on the bottom, or at various depths depending on species and location. They can be easily located along a known migration path to catch large quantities of fish. Varying in mesh size, these nets are invisible to the fish as they swim into them. Once their heads and gills go through the net, they become entangled and die, which drastically affects the quality of the fish, so speed in harvesting is essential.

Drift Nets

Drift Nets —> Trapping fish in the same way as gill nets, drift nets are not affixed to anything and silently move with the tide, entangling the fish. Used at sea to catch squid, tuna, salmon, and other valuable species, these nets have prompted the United Nations to recommend a global moratorium on large-scale high-seas drift netting to protect the large pods of dolphins and turtles from becoming entangled in nets up to 3,000 yards long.

Easily lost, and invisible, they are referred to as ghost nets; they drift and fill up with fish until the weight causes them to sink to the bottom of the sea. Once the entangled fish are consumed by other marine life, the net floats back up to the surface repeating the process. Unfortunately, modern nylon nets do not disintegrate but stay intact, rising and falling in the sea. A disadvantage of both drift and gill nets is the indiscriminate catch of species.

Trawling

Trawling —> Trawling is a method of fishing that pulls different sized nets through the water to capture various species of fish and shellfish. Boats can operate in tandem, pulling large nets through the water, or a single vessel can use a beam, which holds the net open as it is dragged along the ocean bottom or at various depths. Bottom trawlers have chains attached that stir up the seabed and force ground fish up into the waiting net. Trawling nets are controversial because of the damage they cause to the ocean floor.

Midwater trawling deploys a large cone-shaped net from the stern of the boat and pulls it through the water scooping up anything in its path.  Once full, the net is hauled onboard and the fish are placed in the hold. Unwanted bycatch and damage to the fish as they are lifted onto the vessel are disadvantages of this method.

Trolling

Trolling —> Trolling utilizes lures or baited lines from the stern of the boat to capture valuable game fish such as Tuna, Mahi Mahi, and Sailfish. Weights are connected to wire lines with 15 to 20 leaders, each of which is pulled behind the boat. Each line can also be rigged individually and winched in to quickly recover the fish alive. This method is especially beneficial for Tuna because their body temperature can increase drastically during the fight and proper bleeding and immediate cooling are important to the value of the fish. Fish can also be more easily targeted by utilizing specific jigs and live bait.

Purse Seining

Purse Seining —> Purse seining encircles schools of fish with a wall of net that is then pursed (drawn together) on the bottom, trapping the fish. The entire net is brought to the side of the vessel and the fish are pumped or scooped onboard. Targeting large shoals of Tuna and Mackerel, this method became controversial in the 1970s when dolphins were deliberately encircled to facilitate catching the Tuna with which they congregated.

Fish Traps or Pots

Fish Traps or Pots —> Lobster, crab, and fish are caught using various sized pots made of wire, metal, wood, and line. The pot is baited, thrown overboard, and sits on the bottom attached to a buoy. The entrance is designed to prevent escape from the trap. An advantage of this method is that it is highly selective; everything is caught alive with little or no bycatch or habitat destruction. Pot sizes vary; with Alaskan red crab, pots are able to hold hundreds of pounds of crab. Fish traps are especially popular throughout the warm calm waters of the world for their ability to catch specific varieties of fish.

Dredging

Dredging —> Primarily used for shellfish such as clams, scallops, mussels, and oysters,a dredge is a metal basket with a type of rake or teeth assembly that aids in removing mollusks from the seabed. Clam dredges at sea are very large and must be towed from a sizable vessel. Modern dredges pump pressurized water in front of the rakes to loosen the silt and churn up the shellfish. Towed from bars off each side of the boat, the number of baskets or dredges deployed from a single vessel may reach several dozen depending on the catch. Dredging is controversial because it can tear up and disrupt the sea bottom, as well as have a negative effect on the natural sediment of the spawning habitat of shellfish.

Divers —> Divers utilizing scuba gear, or air pumped from the surface, collect a wide range of shellfish from the sea bottom.  Scallops collected this way are referred to as day boats because the divers harvest and return on the same day. Due to the high cost of harvesting, these items command a premium market price.

Sources —> “Kitchen Pro Series: Guide to Fish and Seafood Identification, Fabrication, and Utilization.” Culinary Institute of America (CIA), Mark Ainsworth. 2009.

Diagrams —> https://www.msc.org/home

Photographs —> © Mark Peterson

Culinary Fun Fact: True or False Never use canned goods that are past their “best by” date.”

“The “best by” date printed on canned foods is not a hard-and-fast “expiration” date: It refers strictly to the manufacturer’s recommendation for peak quality, not safety concerns. In theory, as long as cans are in good shape and have been stored under the right conditions (in a dry place between 40 and 70 degrees), their contents should remain safe to use indefinitely.

That said, natural chemicals in foods continually react with the metal in cans, and over time, canned food’s taste, texture, and nutritional value will gradually deteriorate.

Dates aside, cans with a compromised seal (punctured, rusted through, or deeply dented along any seam) should never be used. And discard immediately.

Culinary Fun Fact: Soy Allergy

Ingredients to avoid —> Hydrolyzed soy protein, miso, shoyu sauce, soy-anything, soy protein concentrate, soy protein isolate, soy sauce, soybean, soybean granules, soybean curd, tempeh, textured vegetable protein, tofu.

Foods commonly containing soy —> Baby foods, baked goods (cakes, cookies, muffins, breads), baking mixes, breakfast cereals, packaged dinners like macaroni and cheese, canned tuna packed in oil, margarine, shortening, vegetable oil and anything with vegetable oil in it, snack foods (including crackers, chips, pretzels), nondairy creamers, vitamin supplements.

Substitutions —> There are no good substitutes for items like tofu and soy sauce, so choose recipes that don’t directly rely on soy-based products. Read labels carefully as soy is used in an astonishing number of commercial products, often in places that you wouldn’t suspect, such as pasta sauce.

Culinary Fun Fact: Peanut Allergies

Ingredients to avoid —> Peanuts, peanut butter, peanut starch, peanut flour, peanut oil, mixed nuts, crushed nuts, hydrolyzed plant protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, vegetable oil (if the source isn’t specified), and depending upon the severity of the allergy, anything that states “may contain trace amounts of peanuts.”

Foods commonly containing peanuts —> Baked goods, baking mixes, chocolate and chocolate chips (many contain trace amounts of peanuts), candy, snacks, nut butters, cereals, sauces (peanuts are sometimes used as a thickener), Asian food (stir fry, sauces, egg rolls), veggie burgers, marzipan (almond paste).

Substitutions —> If your dish calls for peanuts, you might be able to substitute with cashews or sunflower seeds. For peanut butter, you can use soy nut butter, almond butter, cashew butter, or sunflower butter. Of course these substitutions are only valid if you or your guest aren’t allergic to all tree nuts.

Kentucky Burgoo For A Crowd

“Burgoo is literally a soup composed of many vegetables and meats delectably fused together in an enormous cauldron, over which, at the exact moment, a rabbit’s foot at the end of a yarn string is properly waved by a colored preacher, whose salary has been paid to date. These are the good omens by which the burgoo is fortified.”
~ William Carey 1761-1834, “Carey’s Dictionary of Double Derivations”

(Makes 1200 Gallons)

  • 600 pounds lean soup meat (no fat, no bones)
  • 200 pounds fat hens
  • 2000 pounds potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 200 pounds onions
  • 5 bushels of cabbage, chopped
  • 60 10-pound cans of tomatoes
  • 24 10-pound cans puree of tomatoes
  • 24 10-pound cans of carrots
  • 18 10-pound cans of corn
  • Red pepper and salt to taste
  • Season with Worcestershire, Tabasco, or A-1 Sauce

Mix the ingredients, a little at a time, and cook outdoors in huge iron kettles over wood fires for 15 to 20 hours.

* Use squirrels in season. 1 dozen squirrels to each 100 gallons

Culinary Fun Fact: Emulsifiers – Vinaigrette

Oil and vinegar do not mix. The only way to combine them is to whisk them together so strenuously that the vinegar breaks down into tiny droplets. The two fluids are then effectively one homogeneous mixture, called an emulsion.

To enable an emulsion to stay stable, add an ingredient that acts as an emulsifier, in this case mustard. Emulsifiers form a barrier around the droplets in an emulsion, keeping them from recombining and separating out. The mustard might not be enough to affect the flavor of the dressing, but it can have a serious impact on the chemistry of the mixture.

Sweet Potato Cornbread

2 cups self-rising white cornmeal mix
3 Tbsp. sugar
1/4 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
5 large eggs
2 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes (about 11/2 lb. sweet potatoes)
1 (8-oz.) container sour cream
1/2 cup butter, melted

  • Preheat oven to 425°. Stir together first 3 ingredients; make a well in center of mixture. Whisk together eggs and remaining ingredients. Add to cornmeal mixture, stirring just until moistened. Spoon batter into a lightly greased 9-inch square pan or cast iron skillet.
  • Bake at 425° for 35 minutes (a little less for a cast iron skillet) or until golden brown.

Culinary Fun Fact: True or False You should never wash fresh mushrooms?

You’ve probably heard that you should never, ever wash fresh mushrooms under running water. The thinking goes that they will soak up the water, making them soft and slimy in the final dish. But is that really true?

After tests of using a damp cloth to brush off the mushrooms and a quick rinse in a colander under running water, there is no difference in the texture of the finished dish.

One rule of thumb – Wash mushrooms right before cooking; if you let rinsed mushrooms sit around for longer than 10 or 15 minutes, the texture will indeed begin to suffer.

Irish Boxty

Boxty is basically potato pancakes. It is a traditional Irish potato dish which is quite easy to make. The name comes from the Gaelic “Bacstai”. An old Irish poem says:

Boxty on the griddle, boxty in the pan,
If you can’t make boxty, you’ll never get a man.

Boxty is an excellent way to use left-over mashed potatoes. Basically it consists of equal parts of raw potato, mashed potato and flour:

1 cup grated raw potato
1 cup mashed potato
1 cup plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
1 egg
1/2 cup buttermilk

Grate raw potatoes and mix with the cooked mashed potatoes. Add salt, pepper and flour. Beat egg and add to mixture with just enough milk to make a batter that will drop from a spoon.

Drop by tablespoonfuls onto a hot griddle or frying pan. Cook over a moderate heat for 3 to 4 minutes on each side. Serve with a tart apple sauce.

If you’re feeling very Irish, serve with fried bacon, fried sausage, fried eggs, fried black pudding, fried bread, and fried soda bread.