I sometimes find myself wondering if I'd be more "ecologically responsible" if Captain Planet had aired during the '80s with the rest of my favorite childhood cartoons (e.g. G.I. Joe, Transformers, and Voltron).
But because Cappy aired during my angry teenage years in the '90s, I always viewed that cartoon as somewhat corny and sissified (heck, I even watched Jem and She-ra during the '80s, and I still liked those better than Captain Planet).
Despite the absence of this green-mulleted, blue-skinned, red underwear-wearing superhero during my formative years, I still try to live and eat as green as possible as an adult. That's not to say that I'm some kind of eco-freak (not that there's anything wrong with that), but I try to do what I can when it comes to how my food choices affect the planet: I eat as locally and organically as I can (though it's not always possible) and I go out of my way to not be wasteful of food.
More recently though, I've started to learn a bit about sustainable seafood and how overfishing certain species of fish can not only lead to the possible extinction of these fish, but can also cause terrible repercussions in the oceans and the rest of the world.
Since October is National Seafood Month, I thought I'd try to shed a little bit of light on this subject by participating in The Leather Disctrict Gourmet's sustainable seafood blog event: Teach a Man to Fish 2008.
Sardines: good for you, good for the planet.
I am by no means an expert when it comes to seafood sustainability, but a slew of information is available at the Monterey Bay Aquarium website. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium:
"Sustainable seafood is from sources, either fished or farmed, that can maintain or increase production into the long-term without jeopardizing the affected ecosystems."
One such source of sustainable seafood is Sardines, which happen to have healthy and abundant populations. Luckily for me, sardines are also in abundant supply at my local Filipino market. When I purchased my sardines, I saw that they were labeled as wild (rather than farmed) and they were caught in Monterey, California.
Ideally, the fish you buy at the market should be labeled with where the fish came from and whether it was farmed or wild. There is no set answer when it comes to farmed vs. wild fish. Some farmed seafood are considered sustainable (tilapia, oysters, rainbow trout) while other farmed species are not sustainable (salmon, imported shrimp [U.S. farmed shrimp are OK]). Confusing I know. But a helpful guide can be found here.
But in short, just because something is farmed, doesn't mean that it is sustainable (for example, some farmed fish can escape their pens and intermingle and breed with wild fish, possibly resulting in some crazy mutant fish--I'm being very general).
If your fish isn't labeled, don't be afraid to ask your fish monger some questions. And if your fish monger doesn't give you a straight answer, don't buy his fish. Simple, no?
And asking questions about your seafood goes beyond your fish market. When eating out at restaurants, check to see if the menu explains where the seafood comes from. And again, ask the server this information as well.
Also, you can download a regional (U.S. only) pocket seafood guide to help you choose seafood that is ocean-friendly to where you live. I've even printed out the west coast guide (WEST COAST!) and put it in my wallet. For my readers in the Philippines and Asia, there are seafood guides at the World Wildlife Fund website, although they only cover Hong Kong and Indonesia. Sadly, I have no idea whether or not Bangus is a sustainable species.
Guide or no guide, the important thing to remember is to ask questions and be aware of where your seafood comes from and how it was raised/farmed/caught and how these different factors affect the ecosystem. As I mentioned earlier, I'm no expert on sustainable seafood and I'm not meaning for this post to be soapboxy (I watch cartoons, remember?). But I do think it's important for me to seek out information and to try and be more responsible with what I choose to cook and eat.
Bacon-Wrapped Stuffed Sardines
I've discussed my love of sardines before, but I do prefer fresh sardines over the canned variety--especially when they are wrapped in bacon and grilled! I also stuffed my sardines with either Sambal (chili-garlic paste) or with chopped shallots. I prefered the ones with sambal as the chili paste stood out against the bacon and the flavor of the sardines, whereas I couldn't taste the shallots at all. But feel free to stuff the sardines with whatever you like--herbs, ginger, etc.
8 fresh sardines, cleaned and gutted
1/2 cup kalamansi juice (or lime juice)
Stuffing of choice (chili paste, shallots, etc.)
8 strips of bacon
Butterfly the sardines by cutting off their heads, and then removing their backbones with a boning knife:
Gently slide a boning knife between the bones and the flesh.
Pull the backbone away from the flesh and then snip with kitchen shears.
Pour the kalamansi juice into a shallow dish large enough to hold all of the sardines. Place the sardines, flesh side down, into the kalamansi juice and allow to marinate for 10 minutes. Remove sardines from kalamansi juice and place on a work surface flesh side up.
I preferred the sambal sardines.
Stuff the sardines with shallots, chili paste, plain 'ol black pepper, or whatever else you'd like. Close the butterflied sardines and wrap each sardine in a strip of bacon. Grill the sardines over medium-high heat, turning every few minutes, until bacon is cooked and crisp--about 5-8 minutes total.