Sustainability Environment

Why it’s now cool to eat ‘unpopular fish’

Sure, you already have your go-to seafood dinner order — and it’s probably sea bass, swordfish, salmon or tuna. But have you looked a further down the menu to find the slimehead and the mullet?

According to the World Wildlife Fund, overfished stocks have tripled in the past 50 years, and one-third of the most popular species of food fish have now been pushed beyond their biological limits. Global population and a drive toward healthier eating has made omega-rich fish an increasingly popular choice in restaurants and for home cooking. 

At the same time, technological advances have made fishing fleets deadly efficient. That, combined with illegal fishing and government subsidies for the legal industry means the global fleets have 2.5 times the capacity to catch what we actually need. Prices fall and the demand for fish grows even stronger.

There are some solutions, though, and one of them is in your control: to look for species of less popular but sustainable fish. They may be called ‘trash’ fish, and some may look a little funky, but they can taste just as good as their famous cousins. They include not just the slimehead and mullet but porgy and monkfish too. 

Chefs are leading the way. Some of the top restaurants in the world are tempting diners with creative offerings, such as sea robin ceviche, Grassy Bar oyster and broiled scup.

“We’re celebrating the idea that diversity is cool,” Rick Moonen told ‘Bon Appetit’ magazine. “There are great fishes in the oceans, thousands of species, but they need to get to the tables.”

Organizations like Pier to Plate are helping home chefs source unusual but tasty fish to try at home.

For diners who haven’t had a chance to encounter an unpopular fish, there are a number of cheat sheets that advise which better known fish options are more sustainable, as well as lists of species that are now struggling, such as most species of tuna, cod and swordfish.

It’s time to discover that a mullet isn’t just a haircut.