Fishmonger hops aboard the sustainable fish boat

A summer seafood series running through July 4 at both Fishmonger and fish market Kathleen's Catch brings the best of sustainably farmed seafood

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Fishmonger hops aboard the sustainable fish boat
Cobia crudo at Fishmonger’s Aquaculture Stewardship Council event

Photograph courtesy of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council

It was ceviche as only Fishmonger could do ceviche: small, pearly cubes of delicate crudo in a blushing shade of purple, infused with hibiscus ponzu and flecked with Daikon radish, surprisingly citrusy and perfect for summer. But unlike traditional recipes, which use white fish like halibut or cod, the ceviche on offer at Fishmonger’s Howell Mill location on a recent evening was made with cobia, a buttery fish native to the Atlantic and Indo Pacific oceans. What’s more, the cobia was certified by the Aquaculture Stewardship Council, a prestigious label that denotes environmental sustainability and social responsibility. It’s one of several dishes Fishmonger will have available as part of a summer seafood series promoting sustainable, farm-raised fish, a partnership with the Aquaculture Stewardship Council and local fish retailer Kathleen’s Catch. Aquaculture, as it’s formally called, is critical to protecting wild fish species and supplying sustainable seafood for humans—but if you need an extra delicious incentive to come around to farm-raised fish this summer, Fishmonger or Kathleen’s Catch will be more than happy to tempt you.

The Fishmonger team—who operate three locations around Atlanta and a fresh fish market attached to the Poncey-Highland venue—has been obsessed with sustainable seafood since they first hatched the restaurant. “Nhan and I went to this little fishery in Sarasota, Florida, that had a retailer selling the freshest seafood we’ve ever had in our lives,” says Skip Engelbrecht, who co-owns Fishmonger with fellow 8ARM alum Nhan Le. “This furthers all our sustainability goals,” he says of the partnership with ASC. “You have a good restaurant, you want good product—we were like, Where do we start?

Fishmonger hops aboard the sustainable fish boat
Skip Engelbrecht

Photograph courtesy of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council

When the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) approached Engelbrecht and Le about a partnership, the Fishmonger team realized much of their fish was already from sustainable sources. But while grocery stores and other retailers are adding more labels to their seafood to denote sustainable certifications, it can be hard for restaurant patrons—and restaurant owners themselves—to know where the fish they’re eating comes from. To boost awareness and interest in sustainability throughout the seafood supply chain, ASC has launched partnerships like this one in Atlanta, which runs from Memorial Day to July 4th weekend.

“Aquaculture is the most sustainable, eco-friendly form of animal protein,” says Athena Davis, director of marketing for Aquaculture Stewardship Council. “We know how much seafood people are eating in the U.S., and there’s not enough wild fish in the ocean to sustain us.” The ASC is a global nonprofit that promotes seafood farming practices that are ecologically sustainable and socially responsible. It also awards—after rigorous review, involving over a hundred metrics—sustainability certifications to hatcheries, processing plants, and retailers around the world. They are a sibling organization to the Marine Stewardship Council, which runs a similar advocacy and certification program for wild-caught seafood. If you’ve shopped at a large chain like Whole Foods or IKEA and seen the blue fish icon on a label for fish, you’ve seen an MSC certification. “We do something similar for aquaculture seafood,” Davis says.

Fishmonger hops aboard the sustainable fish boat
Branzino at Fishmonger’s Aquaculture Stewardship Council event

Photograph courtesy of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council

The advocacy movement for sustainable wild-caught seafood is better known than its farmed-fish counterpart: MSC has a 13-year head start over ASC as an organization, but wild-caught seafood also enjoys a reputation as being more ecologically friendly than farmed fish. That’s actually not the case, says Davis. “There’s old notions of the kind of unromantic part of farmed seafood,” she says. “But when it’s done responsibly, aquaculture can have a lower carbon footprint than wild fishing.” In fact, all forms of seafood harvesting emit much less carbon than meat production of pigs and cattle.

And contrary to myths about farmed fish being dirty or inhumane, aquaculture, when done right, can provide a healthy and safe environment for fish—often in natural environments, like sea pens. “People come to me in December and say, I want the fresh wild salmon,” says Kathleen Hulsey of Kathleen’s Catch, which runs two fresh fish markets in Dunwoody and Johns Creek. “But it’s December, and I don’t sell frozen fish! I tell them, these farmed salmon are raised in open-ocean pens in Patagonia, where the water is cold and clear.” She tries to emphasize that balancing farmed and wild-sourced fish ensures that supplies of wild fish will last for generations: “When you buy sustainable aquaculture-raised fish, you are giving life to wild stocks of fish that your grandchildren will get to eat and enjoy, because they’ll be there.”

Fishmonger hops aboard the sustainable fish boat
Athena Davis of the ASC and Kathleen Hulsey of Kathleen’s Catch speak at the event

Photograph courtesy of the Aquaculture Stewardship Council

To promote the benefits—and deliciousness—of aquaculture, Fishmonger and Kathleen’s Catch will both offer fish specials through the July 4th weekend, highlighting ASC-certified fish like Mediterranean branzino from the company AVRAMAR and cobia from Open Blue. At Fishmonger, the cobia crudo will be on offer through the summer at Pullman Yards, as well as a branzino sandwich crafted by sous chef Momo Ueno. To Engelbrecht, using sustainably sourced fish to make delicious, Fishmonger-worthy dishes was an easy project to get behind: “The idea of not destroying the world and the oceans and getting good food while doing it seems pretty positive.”

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