As Americans expand their palates, many are beginning to discover new kinds of fish to eat. The trend is beneficial in more ways than one. New tastes means fisheries have new ways to keep stocked, and are better able to support local fishermen.
At the forefront of this movement is a team of anglers and chefs in Charleston, South Carolina.
“When I first got to Charleston every menu had grouper, snapper, salmon even though it’s not from here, but there weren’t that many species that people were familiar with,” chef Mike Lata told CBS This Morning’s Jeff Glor.
Lata first opened the restaurant Fig in Charleston in 2003. It has since won three James Beard awards and is considered one of the top restaurants in the world. He followed Fig with The Ordinary, which features an all seafood menu.
“Nobody was talking about seafood,” Lata said. “… Seafood was still popular in Charleston. But, you know, we really weren’t that connected to the people producing it.”
Many fish that are abundant locally are not well known.
“Any time we’re expecting or demanding from the ocean the same five or six species we’re not acknowledging the diversity of the species coming up in the fisherman’s net,” said conservationist Amy MacKown. “There are so many underutilized species that are part of our ecosystem, and can be relied on as a reliable source of protein.”
MacKown works for Good Catch, a non-profit that connects restaurants with local fishermen.
“Fishermen are waiting,” she said. “There are species out there and they are waiting for them to be demanded enough that they bring value back at the dock.”
MacKown said looking local, and in season, is key.
“When people go to the grocery store in the fruit section they know they want no GMOs. When they go to the beef and eggs they want grass-fed, free-range. When they go to the fish section they say, ‘Alright, what’s on sale?'”
Progress is being made in Charleston. Fish most of us haven’t heard of are hits in Lata’s restaurants.
“There’s a host of species that you would never have seen — would never have seen on a menu 20 years ago that you do now. And, and the good thing is that people are much more adventurous,” he said.