Guilt-Free Fish

| 17 Feb 2015 | 05:08

New York City celebrates sustainable seafood

Upper East Side Beginning on Tuesday, a group of local fishermen, restaurant chefs and organizations around the city have gathered to discuss the peril that faces our oceans: a fast-dwindling supply of seafood. This week marks New York's second annual Sustainable Seafood Week. Due to overfishing, the destruction of marine habitats caused by development and acidification of the oceans created by climate change, 70 percent of the world's fish populations are threatened, with some of the most popular species in particular crisis: the Pacific Bluefin tuna population, for example, has suffered a 96 percent decline.

Those figures weighed heavily on Sean Dixon's mind last year when he and his Village Fishmonger co-founders, Samantha Lee and Dennis O'Connor, launched the first annual Sustainable Seafood Week. The trio, who run a sustainable seafood company here in the city as well as a popular CSF, or community-supported fishery program, decided that New York City diners-a seafood-loving bunch-ought to know more about how their dinners are caught.

Sustainable Seafood Week runs through Sunday, with star chefs including Tom Colicchio, April Bloomfield, David Chang, Anita Lo and Bill Telepan participating in events, like a "Sustainable Seafood Shindig" and an interactive supper club, which will mix food and fun with education.

For Dixon, eating New York-caught seafood fits right in with the wider trend of eating local.

"There are so many locally-made products out there today, from cheeses to beer to yogurt to honey," he said. "The freshness of locally-caught fish, that's the same thing. It's like a tomato that's plucked off a backyard vine as opposed to one that's shipped halfway across the country: there's no contest."

Jessica Lin, brand manager at Luke's Lobster on William Street, agreed. The restaurant sources its crustaceans from a group of fishermen operating in Milbridge, Maine, a close business relationship that Lin says allows the restaurant to know the true provenance of the lobster it serves.

"We can trace each lobster we get in, so that we know we're doing things sustainably," she said.

As part of Sustainable Seafood Week, on Thursday Luke's Lobster will host the second of two "Sustainable Seafood Supper Clubs," serving a lobster pot pie. Owner Luke Holden will be on hand to discuss sustainable fishing practices.

Lin said she has noticed that customers are more curious about the provenance of their meal than they have been in the past. She said the restaurant wants to continue to engage that conversation.

"There does seem to be an increasing awareness," she said. "But it's also helpful when the restaurant itself is talking about sustainability. We're talking more, and they're paying more attention."