Young and Hungry

Overeating Oysters Is Your ‘Patriotic Duty': Sustainable Seafood Guru Barton Seaver

Grist magazine checks in with former Hook and Blue Ridge chef Barton Seaver for a little Q&A. Seaver is the author of a new cookbook, For Cod and Country, which is chock full of recipes for "alternatives to the obvious seafood choices that have become unsustainable for our ocean ecosystems." In the interview, Seaver plays the role of contrarian, noting that sometimes the best thing you can do to help save the planet's depleted oceans is to eat more seafood. He is particularly adamant about stuffing your face with shellfish, especially the farm-raised variety:

It's our patriotic duty to eat as many farm-raised shellfish as we can. It's the only seafood that recommend overconsumption of. Oysters are an absolutely decimated wild population, and they provide a very necessary and vital ecosystem function of helping to filter the waterways. When an oyster farmer plants a clam or an oyster, that farmed oyster is the exact same species that goes in the wild, and it performs the same vital functions. In fact, in some cases, those oysters will actually breed and reproduce, thus helping to replenish and restore native populations. Every time you eat one of these farmed oysters you're incentivizing the farmer to plant at least one more. And that creates a vital economic lifeline for areas that are devastated by overfishing.

  • anon

    Or maybe commercial fishery operations could just not overfish?

  • dagny t

    Of course he's ignoring the fact that fish-farming is 1 of the heaviest polluters of our planet.

    Tough choice: do I eat a wild-but-endangered fish, or a mollusk from a known polluter? hmmmmmm........

  • Tom Osborne

    Fish farming is a broad category. The pollution you speak of is from food waste and fecal matter from fin-fish. In shellfish culture there is no food input. Between this and the fact that they are filter feeders, oyster and clam farming does not create pollution. In fact the opposite is true. These shellfish remove algae from the water, remove light blocking clay particles from the water column, and one third of their shell weight is CO2. Said differently, they remove excess nitrogen and phosphorus from the waterway, promote the growth of submerged underwater plants, and trap greenhouse gases.

    I find it hard to believe that "fish-farming" is one of the "heaviest polluters" in the world. But I would love to read the information that told you this so I could learn more.

    Take care,

  • anon

    @Tom Osborne

    by "fish-farming" I think @dagny t is referring to commercial fisheries for fish output like farmed salmon. I don't know enough about these companies, but it's not a stretch to imagine the large agribusiness concerns operating fish farms for salmon and tilapia also operate shellfish farms. That's like applauding BPs renewable energy efforts while ignoring their awful record on petro based pollution