Sustainable conversations: Informed fish eaters
Renee and Damaris Coulter own Coco’s Cantina on K Road and this is their sustainable conversation on fish.
Last year we decided to turn the "fish of the day" on the Coco’s menu into "sustainable seafood of the day". This was controversial as the fish of the day was our most popular dish!
We decided to change because...
a) we already used free range chicken, pork and eggs so why wouldn't we source sustainable seafood?
b) we wanted to use fishing methods that were friendlier to the overall ocean as well as fishermen who had sustainable practices in place. This also meant we could support smaller boats over the bigger boats owned by overseas companies.
Our philosophy was: if we could get line-caught then that was awesome. If we couldn't we would go for things that were more plentiful like cockles, mussels and sardines, turning these into delicious, interesting dishes. Our goal wasn't to shame people into giving fish up but to educate not only our customers but ourselves, our staff and family about sustainable fish, fishing and practises.
We kicked things off by doing a sustainable fish finger bap lunch every Friday to promote more uncommon fish like porae (black snapper). It was brilliant, especially crumbed and matched with our homemade caper tartare.
Through our journey of figuring out what we were comfortable with in regards to seafood at home and in the restaurant we have met some wonderful people and learnt so much. We don't claim to know everything about sustainable seafood nor do we practise things perfectly, however our aim is to become more deliberate and informed fish eaters and servers. We have built relationships with knowledgable fish people like Jimmy the Fish in Ponsonby, Yellow Brick Road in Wellington and Sam at Leigh Fisheries.
Sam is who we are chatting with today.
What do you do?
I work for Lee Fish in Leigh. Our mission is to link the country’s best chefs with the finest seafood from New Zealand and the world. For us it’s all about sustainability and quality.
What did you do before this?
Pretty much always seafood. Last job was based up in Los Angeles, linking Leigh’s fishermen with the best chefs in the US (the fish is sent up daily on Air New Zealand). Before that doing some working in a fish factory ... you get the picture.
Can you tell us a little bit about sustainable seafood and responsible fishing?
New Zealand’s Quota Management System is a world leader in sustainable fisheries management and is continually evolving as we learn more about our environment and the impact of change from both nature and man. The stakeholders in our fisheries share a common goal — to protect the fishery for future generations — and that really sums up what sustainability is about. For us quality and sustainability go hand in hand. We treat every fish as a treasure from the moment it is caught to the time it is enjoyed by our clients. As well as operating under the QMS, all species produced at Leigh also carry Friend of the Sea certification as an independent international verification of sustainable practice for added assurance.
How can we ensure we are buying sustainable seafood?
Most people are aware of the incredible health benefits of eating seafood so, at the end of the day, the most important thing if we want to help improve the health of our nation, is to get more people eating more seafood. Talk to your local fishmonger and ask them about the product they are selling — how, where and when it was caught. Increasingly, customers are demanding this information to make informed purchase decisions and your retailer should be able to provide it. I can recommend South City Sea foods in Princess St, Otahuhu. You can pick your own fish and have the team fillet it for you. It’s a great experience for all the family and the quality is fantastic. If you’re a little unsure on how to select your fish, remember to look for shiny black eyes, bright red gills and a fresh salty scent or you can ask one of the team to assist you.
Are there fish we should and shouldn't be buying?
People tend to stick to the tried and true — snapper, gurnard, tarakihi. These species are fantastic but remember, there is a huge range of other lesser-known species available. They are often at a lower price so they are worth a try before everyone catches on. Sustainability is also about reducing wastage, so make sure you make use of everything you purchase. All New Zealand species are caught under the Quota Management System to manage their sustainability. Learn about the different catch methods so you know what you’re buying.
Give us some good news about seafood
Our chefs are leading the way with a real focus on making sustainable choices when choosing the seafood for their menus. They are influential people so it’s great to see them taking this lead.
If you were a fish, what fish would you be?
John Dory — cool and casual.
What's your favourite fish dish or recipe?
I’m a purist, so I’m going to go with anything ridiculously fresh prepared raw. This includes oysters, paua, kina and fish sashimi (trevally and kingfish are excellent). Following a close second to that list of goodies would have to be Mum’s crayfish mornay.
Read more about Coco's Cantina at cocoscantina.co.nz.