"In my position as a chef, I have a big influence on what people eat and what other people cook because our restaurant is well known," says Ben Shewry, owner of Melbourne's Attica and GoodFish Project Ambassador. "If I don’t have what I would call a clean menu – if I don’t have best practice, the most sustainable menu I can have in terms of shellfish and seafood – then I am contributing to the problem."
"If I don’t have have what I would call a clean menu, then I am contributing to the problem." - Ben Shewry
The "problem" Shewry is concerned about is overfishing. This occurs when too many of the same species of fish are caught, resulting in too few adults left to breed and sustain a healthy population. Commercial fishing practices such as the use of trawlers, longlines and gillnets contribute to overfishing in Australia.
GoodFish, bad fish
Once they're aware of overfishing, most Australians want to do the right thing and buy from sustainable sources, but knowing which fisheries to buy from and which species to buy when can be confusing. Which is why Shewry came on board with the Australian Marine Conservation Society (AMCS) to help promote their new GoodFish Guide.
Shewry believes chefs have a "moral responsibility" to understand the ingredients they cook with. To that end, the AMCS developed GoodFish, an app and website that lists species of Australian seafood and gives them a red, amber or green light, depending on sustainability.
"Our guide considers how a species is caught, where it is from, whether it’s overfished and even how it should be cooked," says GoodFish program manager Sasha Rust. "You can go to the guide and search for your favourite species to see if it is green listed. You may be surprised by the results."
Red fish, green fish
A green light is listed as a better choice. Species in this group are currently not overfished and the AMCS are confident that the species are generally resilient to fishing pressure at the current levels.
An amber light suggests the species should be eaten less. Wild-caught species listed as amber might be heavily targeted or caught using fishing methods that damage ocean habitats (such as bottom trawling) or result in bycatch (unwanted fish, turtles and other marine life that are caught alongside the wanted species).
Red light listed seafood should not be eaten. Species in given this light are most likely overfished or their capture results in significant bycatch of other endangered or protected species.
16 years of experience
The GoodFish app and website are a relaunch of the AMCS Sustainable Seafood Guide - which has been around for more than 16 years.
"Our supporters kept asking us how they could make sustainable and reliable choices when it came to picking seafood," says Rust. GoodFish is the result of moving the guide into a more user-friendly format that can be regularly refreshed to ensure it delivers the most up-to-date information on species and fisheries.
"Sustainability has become mainstream. We are all looking to reduce the footprint of our lifestyles and we require knowledge in order to have agency to do this." - Sasha Rust
Response to the GoodFish Guide from the community and chefs has been "incredibly positive", according to Rust. "Excitingly, there has been a change in the conversation and we are hearing people everywhere start to ask questions around the health of the oceans and how they can reduce their impact.
"Sustainability has become mainstream. We are all looking to reduce the footprint of our lifestyles and we require knowledge to have the agency to do this."
Chefs on board
For the first time, GoodFish also highlights the Australian restaurants which have committed to no longer serving red-listed, unsustainable seafood on their menus.
"Prior to our GoodFish app and website, there has not been a readily accessible source of information to base daily seafood choices on," says Rust. "[Previously], the overwhelming feeling from chefs, and in my personal experience in kitchens and communicating with the public, has been one of uncertainty."
"I have three young children, I really want these things to be around for them and their children." - Ben Shewry
Now, with a simple search on the app, it's quick and easy to see if a species is green listed. Jason Robertson, the Executive Chef at the Applejack Hospitality Group (Bopp & Tone, Table Sixty, The Botanist) whose restaurants are listed, says: "The GoodFish Guide has been pivotal in providing us counsel on the choices we make toward ethical seafood and their habitats."
For Shewry, bringing together a community of Australians chefs to raise awareness of sustainable seafood choices and understand the ingredients they are cooking with, is critical.
"I have three young children," he says. "I really want these things to be around for them and their children."
The tiny rice paddy crabs that are used in this dish can be found near the rice paddy fields and waterways surrounding Ninh Binh. This is a great dish to snack on with a cold beer.
Making your own labneh (strained cheesy yoghurt) is a great trick to have up your sleeve. It works beautifully with a number of dishes, from breakfast to toasties and salads and right through to seafood, like this African-inspired bream.
The flesh of the mullet has a deep sweetness but with the intense umami character traditionally associated with lobster or crab.
This dish is a clever way to use left-over scraps of salmon. It can also be made with salmon fillet, cut into thin strips, or a mixture of fillet and other pieces.
What’s really important in this dish is that the water is ice-cold and the fish is just out of the fridge. Don’t let the batter sit for any length of time, and definitely don’t stir it until there are no lumps – lumpy batter, an anathema to European cooks, is just fine for tempura, and helps give the crisp, crunchy, multi-textured coating that defines the best versions.