I’m sitting on my deck writing and working on a new product line. Words cannot adequately describe the commotion that is going on in my backyard! For several days blackbirds have been taking over the bird feeder. Only yesterday morning did I see them back down to a squirrel.  Not sure from where that squirrel inherited his chutzpah, but he is a secure little one. He knows his power or at least he’s not willing to give up his place at the table! Today, however, the blue jays are complaining in a sound I have never heard. The feeder is empty, so of course, the blackbirds are gone. Apparently, the blue jays are looking for their share. You would think our feeder is the only place to get food. Well, they needn’t stress out. When I have a moment I’ll be sure to replenish the supply.

What I initially had on my mind was my own dinner plans. (Hmmm, maybe I should show more compassion toward those blue jays!) I am preparing swordfish for the grill with a combination of butter, lemon, and blueberries. In my head, it sounds delicious. I’ll let you know if it tastes as good as I imagine. (Be sure to read through to the end for my Blueberry Sauce recipe.)

My passion for sustainable food choices doesn’t end with inside cooking. I often buy seafood for the grill and try to compliment it with other food choices which are Fairtrade and sustainable. It is a big challenge to source sustainable fish and seafood. It’s available, but unless you know what that means, be prepared to not get the real deal from roadside markets and food chains. I’ve stared down many a fishmonger at Whole Foods. I can’t blame them entirely. Most of them seem to only know what the store has taught them. And I know they want to keep their job. I have the privilege of choice. I have a responsibility to make wise choices.

My colleague, Niaz Dory, coordinating director of Northwest Atlantic Marine Alliance and National Farm Coalition is a knowledgeable champion of sustainable fishing and living wages for fishers.

I first met Niaz when I was learning about “who fishes matters”. I was as curious about “big box fishing” as I was about “big box food.” Check namanet.org for resources on what to buy and what we as consumers can do to help foster sustainable fishing industries.

Along with my notes, here is a list from Niaz Dory which highlights “Seven Principles for Choosing Seafood.”

  • Buy local whenever possible – this builds sustainable communities by increasing funds available for education, health care, and housing. Local is more likely to offer seasonal varieties, which is good for people and the ocean’s ecosystem.
  • Choose seafood that has traveled the least distance – This means less chance of buying spoiled fish. If your selection smells “fishy,” keep moving. Long distance options are usually frozen or have been previously frozen. Frozen lobster, crab, and haddock, for example, tend to lose its fresh flavor and can be chewy. Use frozen fish and seafood for chowders and stews or accompanied by other flavors.
  • Choose wild seafood wherever possible – See note on farmed fishing.
  • Avoid farmed finfish and shrimp – For me, buying farmed fish is a big “NO!” An argument used for selling farmed fish is that there is a shortage of seafood to feed the world. Well, shouldn’t the effort be made instead to support a sustainable fishing industry? Much of farmed seafood, with few exceptions, destroy wetlands, increases chemical use, increases disease, and fosters labor infractions, notably in the area of human trafficking and indentured servitude.
  • Avoid fake or imitation seafood products – Alaska Pollack is the most popular for turning into “fake” lobster or crab. It’s budget-friendly, but Pollack is an important part of the North Pacific’s fishing industry and ecosystem. It’s paramount not to over-harvest or create “factory-style” fish farms which are not good for sustaining an ocean of healthy fish that is balanced in variety and supports the rest of the ecosystem.
  • Get involved in Community Supported Fishery (CSF) – As with Community Supported Farm programs, this helps sustain local fishermen and provide opportunities for restaurants and purveyors to buy locally supplied fish. They are just catching on, but look for them along coastlines.
  • Ask how, where, and when your seafood was caught – I check those little labels in front of the fish case; wherever the seller is I inquire as to where the seafood originated. I even ask when eating out. Do you know if slave labor was used to harvest and process your seafood choices? If it’s from Thailand, it’s likely slave labor was involved.

When we have choices we should use them.

Blueberry Butter Sauce

2 cups Fresh washed blueberries

½ cup raw cider vinegar

½ cup water

¾ cup organic ketchup

¼ cup packed raw, organic brown sugar

1 Tbs table molasses

1 teas. chili powder

2 Tbs salted butter

Combine all of the ingredients, except for the butter, in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Reduce to a thick sauce by simmering gently to allow the moisture to evaporate. The sauce should be chunky. Add butter and stir gently until melted and incorporated into the sauce. Cool and refrigerate until ready to use.

This sauce can be used on the side or as a garnish during grilling or roasting.

If you need a quick substitute, use a ready-made, organic, bottled barbeque sauce instead of all of these ingredients, except for the butter and blueberries. Heat bottled sauce gently in a saucepan with the blueberries until the blueberries shells crack. Add the butter and stir gently until melted. Cool and refrigerate until ready to use.