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."

Suzaan Hauptfleisch, owner of Kaia, the South African-inspired wine bar on Third Avenue between 90th and 91st Streets, agreed. One of the first restaurant owners in the city to sign on with Village Fishmonger as a CSF pickup site, Hauptfleisch is dedicated to serving not only organic and local produce where possible, but also sustainable seafood.

"In South Africa, fresh fish is a way of life," she explained. "While some of them are in decline, there are still fishing villages all along the coast. And I want to bring some of that mentality to the menu here."

The most recent addition to Kaia's menu? Fluke, which is coming into season in local waters, and at the restaurant is served in a spicy ceviche flecked with fresh kiwis.

When it comes to sustainable seafood, Hauptfleisch said she saw a need for greater awareness on the part of neighborhood restaurants.

"The Upper East Side is a little barren when it comes to things like that: we don't even have a full-scale farmers market," she said. "So if I can help lead the way, I'm all for it."