Commercial Fishing, Sustainability and Environmental Impact

Commercial Fishing

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 —> 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 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 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 —> 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 —>

Photographs —> © Mark Peterson

What and where is the First Coast

I receive much of my information from living on the First Coast, so what and where exactly is the first coast?

Florida’s First Coast is a region of the U.S. located on the Atlantic coast of North Florida. The First Coast refers to the same general area as the region of Northeast Florida. It comprises the five counties surrounding Jacksonville: Duval, Baker, Clay, Nassau, and St. Johns, largely corresponding to the Jacksonville metropolitan area, and depending who you ask includes nearby areas Putnam and Flagler counties in Florida and Camden County in Georgia. As its name suggests, the First Coast was the first area of Florida colonized by Europeans. The name originated in a marketing campaign in the 1980’s.

The name refers both to the area’s status as the first coast that many visitors reach when entering Florida, as well as to the region’s history as the first place in the continental United States to see European contact and settlement. Juan Ponce de León may have landed in this region during his first expedition in 1513, and the early French colony of Fort Caroline was founded in present-day Jacksonville in 1564. Significantly, the First Coast includes St. Augustine, the oldest continuously inhabited European-established city in the continental U.S., founded by the Spanish in 1565.

The First Coast marketing campaign and identity has been very popular with its spread to other nearby areas, being found as far south as Flagler Beach in Flagler County, Palatka in Putnam County, and as far north as St. Mary’s, Georgia.

Culinary Fun Fact: True or False you should eat oysters only in months whose names contain the letter R.

The “R” rule may have been true 30 or 40 years ago, but thanks to advances in aquaculture it has fallen by the wayside. It used to be fishermen dug for oysters only in the colder “R” months (September through April) to avoid the spawning season.

Warm waters (above 60 degrees) encourage spawning, rendering oysters bland, soft-textured, and small. Once the spawning season is complete, oysters are generally plumper and better-tasting, thus commanding a higher price tag.

Today’s oysters are more likely to be farmed than found, with farmers having more control over the conditions in which they are grown, harvested, and stored. This means that oyster cultivators can plant oysters in cold waters, thereby staggering spawning and keeping their product available year-round. So forget the “R” rule—any time is fine for eating oysters.

Bourbon Sweet Potato Casserole


3–4 pounds sweet potatoes
6 tablespoons butter, divided
2 tablespoons heavy cream
4 tablespoons bourbon
1¼ cups packed light brown sugar, divided
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground allspice
⅓ cup all-purpose flour
1 cup chopped pecans (Optional, but please use)

Preheat the oven to 350°.

Scrub the sweet potatoes well. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 1 hour, until very soft when you press the skins. Remove from the oven and let stand until cool enough to handle. Slice in half and scoop the flesh into a large mixing bowl, discarding the skins.

Beat the sweet potatoes with a wooden spoon to mash them well. Stir in 2 tablespoons butter, the cream, the bourbon, and ¼ cup brown sugar. Beat in the cinnamon, salt, nutmeg, and allspice. Spread in a 1½-quart baking dish.

In a small bowl, combine the remaining 1 cup brown sugar and flour. Cut in the remaining 4 tablespoons butter, using a fork to blend well. Stir in the chopped pecans, if using and you should. Sprinkle the topping over the sweet potatoes.

Bake for 30 minutes, until the topping is light brown and a little crisp and the casserole is bubbly.



Shichimi Tōgarashi – 七味唐辛子 (seven-flavor chili pepper)


2 tablespoons sanshō or finely ground Szechuan pepper
2 tablespoons dried yuzu peel or orange or lemon peel
4 tablespoons chili powder (the Korean variety if possible)
2 tablespoons aonoriko (nori seaweed flakes)
2 teaspoons black sesame seeds
2 tsp teaspoons hemp seeds
2 teaspoons garlic powder

Mix everything together and store in an airtight container.  These amounts are just a guideline and adjust seasonings to your taste.


Traditional Pie Crust: All Butter Dough


2½ cups all-purpose flour, unbleached
½ teaspoon salt
14 tablespoons butter, cut into tablespoon-size pieces
½ cup ice water + 1–2 tablespoons more as needed
Additional flour for rolling out dough

Add all the ingredients but the ice water in a large bowl.

Quickly work the mixture together with your hands until the ingredients look like cracker crumbs with lumps the size of peas.

Sprinkle ice water over the mixture and stir lightly with a fork.

Squeeze a handful of dough to see if it holds together. Mix in more water as needed.

Divide the dough in half and make two discs about 5 inches across.

Wrap the discs separately in plastic wrap, and chill for about an hour.

Roll the dough until is is approximately 1 to 2 inches larger than your pie pan, brush off the extra flour.

Lay the dough in the pie pan carefully.  Don’t worry if the crust has cracks or even a small hole. Brush a little water where it needs to be patched and glue on the patch piece.

Put the filling in the pie and repeat the process with the other piece of dough.

Alaskan Salmon Purse Seining


A purse seine is a large wall of netting deployed around an entire area or school of fish.

The seine has floats along the top line with a lead line threaded through rings along the bottom. Once a school of fish is located, a skiff encircles the school with the net. The lead line is then pulled in, “pursing” the net closed on the bottom, preventing fish from escaping by swimming downward.


  • Purse seines can reach more than 6,500 ft (2,000 m) in length and 650 ft (200 m) in depth, varying in size according to the vessel, mesh size, and target species.

  • Finding a school of fish is one of the most difficult steps of this fishing technique and include:
    • Natural cues such as a congregation of seabirds, ruffling of surface water and/or fast moving groups of dolphins.
    • Helicopters scanning the water for natural cues from the air to direct boats toward schooling fish.
    • Using radar fish finders to help identify the exact location and size of a school.

There are other types of catching salmon such as gill netting and trolling employed in Alaska and other American coastal waters.


Refrigerator Cucumber Pickles


  • 3 cups sugar
  • 2 cups white vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon celery seeds
  • 2 onions sliced thin
  • Cucumbers, sliced thin

Stuff jars with cucumbers and onions. Add sugar, vinegar, salt and celery seeds together and mix. Add liquid mixture to the top. This recipe makes 3 quarts.

Store in refrigerator and they will keep for months. Do not heat liquid, just stir vinegar, sugar and salt until dissolved and pour over the cucumbers and onions.

Schmaltz Mit Gribenes: Ashkenazic Rendered Chicken Fat with Cracklings

Schmaltz or schmalts in Yiddish (from the Middle High German smalz, “animal fat”) is the generic Yiddish term for animal fat, but more specifically and colloquially, it denotes melted and purified poultry fat. Schmaltz became to Ashkenazic cooking what olive oil was to Mediterranean food, indispensable for frying and cooking, and as a flavoring agent.”

~ Gil Marks, “The Encyclopedia Of Jewish Food

  • Skin and fat from 8 chicken thighs (or 2 cups reserved chicken skin and fat) *
  • ¼ cup water
  • 1 onion, cut into medium dice

Chop chicken fat and skin and add to a small amount of water to begin the rendering at a gentle temperature.  Once the water and the moisture in the fat and skin have cooked off, the fat can rise above 212 degrees and the browning can begin.  When the skin is lightly browned and plenty of fat has been rendered, add the chopped onion.

Be careful not to overcook. It should remain clear and yellow, not brown with an overly roasted flavor.  The browned skin and onion, called gribenes are delicious.  Strain the fat and reserve the gribenes. The schmaltz is ready to use, to refrigerate for up to a week, or to freeze. The gribenes should also be refrigerated or frozen

* Where do I get the chicken fat?

Make roast chicken once a week. Before you roast it, pull off all the fat you see and trim all the skin you won’t need. Store the fat and skin in the freezer, until you have plenty to render for schmaltz


Bread & Butter Pickles


  • 6 pounds cucumbers, unpeeled
  • 8 onions thinly sliced
  • 2 green peppers thinly sliced
  • 2 red peppers thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup salt
  • 1 quart crushed ice
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons turmeric & mustard seed
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 quart white vinegar

Slice cucumbers very thin.  Place in two gallon container with onions and peppers. Mix salt and ice.  Pack on top of vegetables. Cover with weighted lid, and allow to stand for 3 hours. Drain.  Mix remaining ingredients and pour over vegetables in a large pot.    Bring to a boil over low heat. Stop cooking immediately, do not overcook.  Ladle into hot sterilized jars and seal.