There is something about the ocean which pulls at my heartstring like nothing else on earth. As a child, I was drawn to the sea and all the creatures who call it home. At a very early age, I became a marine life warrior.
I didn’t do anything extreme, like join Greenpeace or Sea Shepherd. But I did fight to protect what I love. And I learned how I can make a significant difference to what I cherish most.
When I started to look into the principles of Eating Green, I noticed both in my old home of Florida, and my new home of Washington, we are experiencing a crisis in the water.
In Florida, the crisis of water is in the form of red algae blooms (red tide) and blue algae blooms. Thousands of sea animals are dying as a result of these blooms, and it isn’t safe to eat seafood caught in the area where blooms are occurring. As a result, many restaurants and seafood companies are losing business, even though their fish and shellfish are being caught hundreds of miles away.
Looking at what places like SeaWorld are combatting as they care for ten manatees suffering from the toxic red algae. Guys, that’s insane. Especially when Fish and Wildlife are estimating for every one manatee rescued, there are about 5-10 who die from the toxins eaten.
While I am discussing seafood in this segment, I am going to mention very briefly what environmentalists are hypothesizing is the biggest culprit to these dangerous blooms occurring all over the state. Sugar farms. Sugar farms and development around drainage lakes into rivers and eventually the ocean are heavily polluted by phosphorus and pesticides.
Sustainable seafood isn’t necessarily the answer to save Florida waters, but it does prove why it’s important for our health to eat sustainably.
Across the country in the Pacific Ocean, along the Puget Sound, is another cry for help. As of this writing, a female orca by the name of Tallequah (J35) of the J-pod of Southern resident killer whales has been swimming and carrying around her deceased calf for seventeen days. It’s heartbreaking from any point of view.
Some activists are claiming the mother is grieving, purposefully showing us humans how our actions are having a dramatic effect on her and the other orcas. I don’t know if I would go so far as to say she is targeting humans with her grief, but I won’t pretend to understand killer whale emotions. I personally think this mother knows it is unlikely she will reproduce again, even though she is still remarkably young. Orcas and other animals are a bit more in-tuned to their environment than humans. If the conditions aren’t right, they won’t reproduce. And things are NOT going well for orcas right now.
With only 75 whales identified as Southern Residents, they are classified as endangered species. Why are these iconic animals endangered? Well, that would be all on us humans. Resident whales, such as the J-pod, eat one thing and one thing only. Don’t ask me why. They’re food snobs. It doesn’t matter. They only eat chinook salmon.
However, chinook salmon is also endangered, not because orcas eat them all, but because of human activity. There are dams along Columbia River tributaries which prevent them from spawning. Habitat destruction and over-fishing are huge culprits as well.
If we don’t help the chinook salmon, we may end up saying goodbye to the orca as well. This cause and effect relationship is happening all over the ocean, and no one is even noticing. Sharks are killed by the hundreds of millions every year. And yet they are an apex predator whose extinction would cause the ecosystem to completely turn upside down and possibly collapse.
Bluefin tuna is on the verge of extinction, another apex predator in the open ocean. But what makes this even more perplexing is bluefin tuna is also at risk of being too high in mercury to even safely consume. So why are we consuming it if it is going extinct and is completely unhealthy for us?
The ocean is a beautiful place. But it does contain a delicate system where the fate of all species depend on each other. It is bountiful and fragile. We must respect it if we are to thrive from it. The ocean can certainly provide for us, if we choose to do so carefully and environmentally.
Luckily, I don’t have to do ALL the research to show you what you should and should not eat from the ocean. Monterey Bay Aquarium has already done that with the Seafood Watch Card. Of course, I’m not saying you HAVE to eat seafood. Not everyone enjoys fish, or crabs, or calamari.
But if you are a mermaid at heart like I am, then you cannot give up seafood entirely. I make my choices very carefully and look not just at the watch card, but also for signs in the market for marine stewardship council. These indicate fish and seafood which was sustainably caught, or farmed ethically.
Some of my all-time favorite meals come from the sea. Enjoy them responsibly.
Chipotle Maple Salmon Serves 2- 388 calories, Carbs:7.5 g, Fat:16 g, Protein:37.6 g
- 2 salmon fillets, about 6 oz each (12 oz total)
- 1 tsp paprika
- ½ tsp each of chili powder, brown sugar, salt
- ¼ tsp cumin
- Pinch of cayenne pepper
- ¼ cup maple syrup (or less if desired)
- Olive oil
- Preheat broiler
- Combine all dry spices and seasonings in small container with a lid. Shake to mix
- Rub spice mixture on flesh side of each salmon fillet
- Brush olive oil on a broiler pan and place fillets on pan. Broil for 7-10 minutes
- Remove from the oven, cut slits down the center of each fillet. Brush or carefully pour maple syrup evenly over each fillet
- Return to oven and broil for another 3 minutes
Halibut with Lemon Butter Serves 2: 325 calories, Carbs- 32.6 g, Fat- 11.3 g , Protein- 42.1 g
- 2 Tbsp butter, melted
- 3 cups basil leaves
- 2 T olive oil + some for brushing
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ tsp salt and black pepper
- 12 oz halibut fillets
- Preheat a skillet to medium heat. Brush olive oil onto pan
- Squeeze orange to extract about ⅓-½ cup of juice
- Combine butter, basil, olive oil, and garlic in a food processor and blend until finely chopped
- Sprinkle salt and pepper over fillets. Saute until done, about 3-4 minutes on each side.
- Serve fish with sauce on top in a side dish for dipping
Coconut Shrimp 2 servings- 400 calories, Carbs: 20g, Fat: 22g, Protein: 31g
- 10 oz peeled large shrimp
- 3 Tbsp coconut flour
- 1 Tbsp coconut flakes
- Ground black pepper
- 4 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 lemon or lime, cut into wedges
- Handful of cilantro, optional
- Put shrimp and coconut flour in a container together. Season with black pepper and shake to coat.
- In a large saute pan over low heat, add olive oil. Once heated, add shrimp and cook for about 3 minutes on each side.
- Squeeze lemon or lime juice over shrimp and sprinkle with cilantro.