Thursday, August 5, 2010

Striped Bass

So I can say without hesitation that in every class I have done something that I have never done before, from simply visiting a Boston Harbor island all the way to finding decades-old china on the sandy shores of Massachusetts. Today, however, I can say without a doubt that I did something that I have neither done before, nor ever planned to do in my entire lifetime. Dissecting a fish was by no means my idea of a good time. It was like watching a train wreck, I couldn’t look away but I was revolted up to the last organ. But having said that, not only do I feel like I conquered a fear of looking at the gooey insides of a dead creature, but I also have a new appreciation for all the hard work that goes into preparing the food that can so easily be bought in a pretty package from a freezer in the supermarket. Now I am a little less squeamish, and a little more inclined to choose a nice dish of pasta over fish and chips any day.

I did take a piece of the striped bass home to try and cook for my dad for dinner because he is a huge fish connoisseur and I know he would appreciate the freshness of a fish caught directly from the ocean in our own backyard. My plan fell through, and the striped bass will have to wait in the fridge until tomorrow night to be feasted on by a family member. However, here is a pretty simple (and delicious-sounding) recipe I plan on using tomorrow night that will be eaten by someone who truly appreciates it: (adopted from the Barefoot Contessa at :

•2 tablespoons good olive oil
•1 cup chopped yellow onions
•2 ounces pancetta or bacon, diced
•1 tablespoon chopped garlic
•1 (28-ounce) can plum tomatoes, drained and diced
•1 teaspoon saffron threads
•1 teaspoon kosher salt
•1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
•1/2 cup dry white wine
•1/4 cup Pernod, optional
•1 (2 to 3-pound) striped bass fillet, skin removed
•2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat the oil in a medium saute pan and saute the onion and pancetta over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the tomatoes, saffron, salt, pepper, white wine, and Pernod, if using, and simmer over medium heat for 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, lay the fish in a 10-by-14-inch baking dish and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Pour the sauce over the seafood and bake uncovered for 20 to 30 minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Thanks Bruce!!

Now on to the political side of the striped bass.

I have taken the stance of the commercial Massachusetts fisherman, hoping to have the ban lifted on fishing in federal waters. As of now, under a quote of 1,128,577 pounds and a season spanning July 13th to the fulfillment of the quota, I am angry and feel cheated by the freedom of recreational fishing policies. I cannot keep any fish under 34”, can catch only 30 fish on Tuesdays through Thursdays, and only 5 on Sundays during season. To me, this is barely enough to get by and without access to federal waters, I have to turn to shellfish and lobsters to try and make a living. ( Unfortunately, since I am restricted to fishing in state waters (<3 miles from the shore) I am missing out on all the bass that are swimming to deeper waters to find food. To add insult to injury, recreational fishermen have access to the bass all year long, can keep any fish longer than 28” and because they bring in big business in recreation for the state, they are allowed to consume thousands more pounds of fish than we are. According to NOAA, in 2009 there were 665,000 recreational fishermen to the measly 1,207 commercial fishermen, yet we continue to be restricted more and more every year. ( According to one of my fellow commercial fishermen, Darren Saletta, what the recreational fishermen are trying to accomplish with the ban on commercial fishing in federal waters is the “greedy intention of retaining the entire catch.” ( I want to see the ban lifted so I can start making a living again at what these people do for sport.

Now on to my personal feelings on the matter. This is obviously a very complicated matter, and after reading the plight of the commercial fishermen, I do see why they feel like they got the short end of the stick and think that maybe something could be done to even out the share between the recreational and commercial fishermen. However, coming from an environmental standpoint, I know how fragile ecosystems (and especially the population of popular fish) are in the state of our world right now. And they are not going to get any more stable any time soon unless we enforce some real change. I think that the ban on commercial fishing is a good start, but would like to see the oceans replenish themselves in the long-term, not just the short-term. Does this mean banning all fishing? I’m not an expert on the devices of policy and the balancing of numbers, so I can’t say. I do think that the world is getting increasingly overbearing in policy on the way we take pleasure in life, so banning fishing altogether would take a huge and unfair hit on a portion of the population that enjoys summers doing what humans have done since the beginning of time—fish. But back to commercial fishing in particular, perhaps focusing on replenishing the stock of their food would be a good place to start before considering lifting the ban on fishing in federal waters. If we replenish the population of the menhaden by limiting access by Omega-3 vitamin producers for example, then the commercial fishermen might have less need to even access federal waters. In conclusion, I do feel some sympathy for the commercial fishermen who have likely descended from a long line of fishing families, but I think that times are changing and making a living from fishing might be a dying profession. Unfortunately, due to massive overfishing and a global example of tragedy of the commons, sea life has changed dramatically and I see no long-term benefit from lifting the ban on commercial fishing in federal waters.

-Lydia T

No comments: