At a time where vegetarianism and veganism is on the rise – becoming more and more of a cultural as well as an ethical choice – it’s really difficult to know how you can make your diet as sustainable as possible if you opt to continue to eat meat.
Tom Aikens, founder of chic restaurant franchise Tom’s Kitchen and the youngest ever British chef to receive two Michelin stars, believes being a sustainable seafood lover isn’t just possible, but incredibly important. “It’s shocking how over the last fifty years, the drainage on the planet has been extortionate, putting fisheries on the brink of collapse,” he tells HuffPost UK.
Unsustainable fishing techniques have long wrought havoc on our oceans. Poorly managed fisheries and high demand for popular species such as cod and salmon have led to a huge pressure on our marine life, pushing many towards extinction. What’s more, the global seafood market is expected to expand even further – by fifty million tons, to be exact – by 2025.
An avid supporter of small switches to take care of the planet, including his work with WWF’s Earth Hour campaign, it’s safe to say that sustainable fish sourcing is close to Aiken’s heart. While ethical sourcing and close relationships with his suppliers are also key ingredients of his business, he’s confident that we can still live an environmentally-friendly lifestyle, while still indulging in carnivorous habits if that is what we choose.
“I believe it is possible to eat meat and fish as part of a balanced, sustainable diet. It’s down to each individual’s choice. The important thing is to make sure the food itself is sustainably sourced,” he says.
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In order to do this when you’re doing your weekly shop, look for the MSC certification label on the packaging of your fish, which signifies that the fishery has been deemed well-managed and sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council. But wherever you are – in a supermarket, visiting a fishmonger or out for dinner – if in doubt, do ask. “Customers have more rights than ever before to understand where their produce comes from,” Aikens says.
The chef is adamant that if you really enjoy your fish-inspired meals, there’s no need to cut down. Instead, look for alternatives that will taste just as good, but have less of a drain on current resources. “If you’re worried and want to do your bit, pick species that are not close to being wiped off the planet,” he says.
When it comes to brunch, he recommends swapping out the salmon and serve flounder with your scrambled eggs. Any flat fish, in fact, will taste good with your eggs. If you’re a fish and chip fiend, try swapping your cod or haddock for gurnard, which can be found in the Atlantic and the Mediterranean. Sometimes, even swapping for a fish in the same family could help. For instance, if you really enjoy a sole dish, switching from dover or lemon sole to megrim sole, a more sustainable member of the sole species.
The trick is to not be averse to trying new things, as this can sometimes stand in the way of new sustainable switches. “Our key issue is trying to get people to try other species, the public aren’t as willing to try something new,” he says. He also recommends, when you can, using as much fruit, vegetables, pulses and nuts in your meals, just to give an extra sustainable twist. “Meat and fish are great, but they don’t always have to be the main event at mealtimes.”
Take part in WWF’s Earth Hour, the world’s largest event to protect the planet, at 8:30pm on Saturday 24 March. Switch off your lights for the hour and make your #PromiseForThePlanet.