One of my most treasured childhood memories was crabbing with my grandfather on the Chesapeake Bay in Kenwood Beach, Maryland. It was a family rite of passage to one day co-captain my grandfather’s tiny gray boat, a 12-foot-long aluminum rowboat with three wooden planks for sitting either up front, in the middle (to man the oars), or in the back where my grandfather would attach the tiniest outboard motor I’ve ever seen.
My time finally came at the age of six when my grandfather gently shook me awake well before the sunrise. He showed me how to properly stack the wire crab traps in the bottom of the boat, bait them with assorted frozen chicken parts, clasp the bait door shut with one of my grandmother’s old wooden clothespins and secure each trap to a 45-foot rope that clipped onto the buoyant object that would ultimately mark each trap’s location under the waves: an empty plastic gallon milk jug marked with paint.
My grandfather and I would catch bushels of large Chesapeake blue crabs with that humble little rowboat. The bounty of the Chesapeake Bay seemed endless. However, when I was 12, we began to notice that the once-large blue crabs were becoming less plentiful and smaller in size.
By the time I turned 16, just 10 years after I began crabbing with my grandfather, the blue crab population was so diminished that it was no longer worth the trouble of going out on the water.
How was it possible that in less than a decade, America’s largest estuary, and one of nature’s most prolific sources of seafood in the world, had found itself in such disarray? Would the Chesapeake Bay blue crab population ever rebound? (Cue suspenseful music! Fade to black. Oh, no – cliffhanger!)
From buttery blue crab cakes to sweet, briny oysters to grilled fish tacos with spicy salsa, there’s no question that people love eating seafood. Goodness knows I do! However, if we want to continue enjoying seafood, we have to protect and preserve the ocean and environment. That’s why I am passionate about spreading the word on sustainable seafood – seafood that’s caught or farmed in ways that are friendlier to the environment.
When you choose sustainable seafood, you can enjoy a tasty meal and take care of the earth at the same time. It’s a win-win! Plus, it’s easy to do. Here’s a tip to get you started: Download the Seafood Watch app onto your smartphone or tablet. Seafood Watch, a program from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, tells you which seafood is a best choice in addition to what types of seafood you should avoid. The app will even point you in the direction of restaurants and grocery stores in your area where they sell sustainable seafood. Couldn’t be easier, right?
Now, how about those buttery blue crab cakes? Are they sustainable? Did the Chesapeake Bay blue crab population ever rebound? As it turns out, with bay-wide management measures and regulations in place, the answer is yes! In fact, the bay-wide harvest of blue crabs has remained at sustainable levels for the last eight consecutive years.
This is a success story of sustainable seafood, and a success that I hope repeats itself over and over again.
It’s stories like these that make me especially excited to have the opportunity to share my love and passion for delicious, sustainable food with you in my upcoming Clean Eating Academy course, Mastering Sustainable Seafood, Poultry and Meat.
Perhaps you’re curious about some of the issues surrounding sustainable seafood, or maybe you’re hungry for new recipes and foolproof cooking methods. Join me and let’s dive into the world of sustainable seafood and meat (yes, I’ll cover it all!). I’ll be there with a delicious repertoire of recipes, plenty of kitchen tips, practical shopping advice and step-by-step instructions so that together we can tackle technical feats such as filleting a fish.
Written by Nathan Lyon for Clean Eating Magazine and legally licensed through the Matcha publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.