Ethical buying, including of seafood, has come a long way, and people and businesses are getting to ‘know their fish’ and increasingly looking for seafood that is either sustainably assessed or rated well or certified as such which is great to see. People might not know though that in a similar way to fruit and vegetables, seasonality is also important for seafood.
Wild caught fish live in the sea naturally, and like any wild animal, they need to be allowed to grow to maturity and breed and they do this at different times of the year depending on the species. Seasonality does not apply to farmed seafood as they do not breed and reproduce in the same way as wild caught fish, or frozen or processed fish as you can’t really know when the fish was caught if it’s processed or frozen. But when buying fresh fish, picking them at the right time can be important. By avoiding immature (baby) fish and species that are in their spawning season – including berried crab and lobster – we can allow fish the chance to reproduce and contribute to their population. This can help maintain and increase fish stock levels and also contribute to their value in maintaining jobs and food security.
Local and seasonal fresh fish is often of better quality and tastes great, especially as a light summer dish. Here are some great seasonal fish to choose in August.
Mussels are one of the most sustainable seafood choices. Farming of mussels is a good way of producing seafood as it requires no feed inputs and is a low impact method of aquaculture. Rope grown or hand-gathered mussels, if taken from the wild, have a lower environmental impact. Best steamed with garlic, butter, lemon juice, white wine or other sauces. If cooked well they taste like the ocean with a hint of mushroom. Try this tasty light shellfish chowder by celebrity chef Raymond Blanc OBE.
Coley belongs to the same family as cod and haddock and is a great sustainable substitute for cod. Also known as saithe, coley used to be a favourite of the nation’s cats before tinned pet food was developed, however top chefs and leading supermarkets have changed all that, championing it as a good alternative to cod. Coley is brilliant in fish pies and cakes and also eaten salted and smoked. Try this easy coley fish & chips recipe by Harry Niazi, owner of MSC certified Fish & Chip shop “Olley’s”.
Hake is closely related to cod but separated by its long slender body. Hake has a mild flavor with a medium but firm textured meat and is best poached with lemon juice. The European hake is found in waters close to home and the most sustainable choice is MSC certified European hake from Cornwall. Try this scrumptious Basque style hake recipe by acclaimed restaurateur, chef and author, Mitch Tonks.
Mackerel is full of omega-3 and rumored to improve brain power so an ideal starter fish for kids! Mackerel is a fast swimming sliver and blue striped fish, related to tuna. Mackerel is best eaten fresh and can be grilled smoked or fried. Choose MSC certified handline caught mackerel from South West England. Try this delicious mackerel recipe by celebrity chef Raymond Blanc OBE.
Whiting is from the same “family” as cod & haddock with a firm white flesh and best used when very fresh. Sold whole and filleted, fresh or frozen. Also dried, salted and smoked, Whiting makes a great alternative to cod in fish and chips. Whiting are mainly a bycatch species so choose whiting sourced from the correct area and captured using nets with measures to improve selectivity and reduce discards. The most sustainable choice is whiting from Southern Celtic Sea and English Channel caught by seine net. Try this great beer battered whiting fish and chips by Matthew Couchman.
For more tasty seasonal fish recipes, check out the Marine Conservation Society’s Fish of the Month page, on the Good Fish Guide, where you can get recipes each month for fish in season from celeb chefs including Raymond Blanc, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, Tom Aikens and more.
If you want to know more tips on seasonal fish to eat throughout the year, download the Marine Conservation Society’s seasonal guide on the Good Fish Guide app and website, which gives the best choices for fresh, wild caught fish that we rate at 1, 2, or 3. Buy fish during the ‘green’ months which are outside the breeding season and the best time to enjoy eating them. If you can’t see your fish listed on our seasonal guide it could be farmed. Farmed fish are available all year round so seasonality doesn’t apply, just make sure you follow our ratings to make the best choice. When buying fresh fish make sure you look out for eco-labels such as the Marine Stewardship Council for wild-caught fish and Aquaculture Stewardship Council for farmed fish. Organic farmed fish are also a good choice and the Freedom Foods label indicates high welfare standards for farmed fish. By selecting sustainable and seasonal seafood, we can help allow species to breed and replenish their populations, helping to keep fish on the menu for future generations.
Rajina Gurung, Seafood Sustainability Advocate, Marine Conservation Society
Rajina Gurung is a seafood sustainability advocate at the Marine Conservation Society. Rajina’s work at MCS involves engaging with businesses and consumers to influence responsible seafood buying practices. Rajina is enthusiastic about science communications and is an avid diver, snorkeler and general ocean lover.