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My Mussels Ain’t From Brussels!

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Rob West
Rob West

I recently read a fantastic book by American author, Taras Grescoe called Bottom Feeder; How To Eat Ethically In A World Of Vanishing Seafood. It worried me to say the least, and though I don’t wish anyone any undue stress I suggest everyone dips into the pages of this book and picks up some sage wisdom. It outlines, as the title suggests, a world in which we have ravaged our oceans to their very limits, and beyond in some cases. It describes the collapses of various fisheries and the areas in the ocean aptly named dead zones. Grescoe details ways in which we can be more informed and ethical in our munching on the bounties of the seas.

Being a seafood lover, as are many Kiwis, I was both devastated to learn of the fish that were now struck from my menu, and elated at the knowledge I was now armed with (anyone who knows me will testify to being bombarded at one point or another about the fish on their plates). The one problem was that the seafood available in these waters differs from the ones described in much of his book. I swiftly struck upon a simple solution and one available to all of us. Forest and Bird have produced a tiny pamphlet that shows us what is the best fish to eat: Kina (which I am told is foul looking but nonetheless is environmentally all-good) and anchovies, whilst lets us know that eating Orange Roughy is the worst choice you can make and most things in between. Greenpeace have also produced a handy wee paper describing in far less detail the fish to avoid. They are both worth even the merest of glimpses so take a second and have a look. I honestly carry mine everywhere I go, just in case the need for a feed overtakes me and there is some tasty looking seafood on the menu.

You may notice that on neither will you find Mussels. This disturbed me greatly as they are literally everywhere here in New Zealand. They mostly come in the guise of the Greenshell, which is locally grown (good for greenhouse gases) and on the whole organic (good for you). They apparently provide a good percentage of protein while being minimal in calories, has high irons and such like and of course the wonderful omegas. They also work as natural filters, so rather than increasing pollution a farm can actually clean the water around it.

I know what you’re thinking, probably so what! Well, read the book and anything else you can about the world’s oceans, because they are in serious trouble and if as many people as possible are armed with knowledge about seafoods, then it’s all the more people to consume ethically. New Zealand produces a whole heap of mussels throughout the year and it is also good to know we have such a sustainable farming industry. Grescoe recommends we eat bottom feeders, hence the name (well partly anyway) as they are good for us, as all seafood is, but also don’t contain a lot of the harmful things that fish higher up the food chain can. For me, after learning more about the situation and believing firmly that we can adapt our ways to become more sustainable rather than go through a drastic change, finding it ok to eat seafood that not only tastes good but is good for you and the environment and even your wallet, well it just makes me happy. Enjoy the mussels!

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