One of most dynamic people I met at Cooking For Solutions was Paul Johnson who is the founder and president of the Monterey Fish Market. He is former chef, author of two books, and sets on the advisory board for the Seafood Watch Program. I like Paul most for his passion and no nonsense way of telling it like it is.
Paul mentioned during the panel discussion that he viewed the commercial extinction of many species directly related to the loss of small-boat fishing. In case your unaware, commercial fishing is no longer dominated by the “mom & pop” fishers but rather commercial factory trawlers that individually harvest as much as entire small boat fleet. These factory ships move from location to location, fishery to fishery, with no personal connection to the local fishery that local based small-boat fishers have. Paul also mentioned that the tendency of the federal government to break their own laws to be troublesome.
Overall, Paul wants to see more wild fisheries and obviously wants people to enjoy seafood. To this effect, Paul is the author of Fish Forever (see Rick’s review here). Part cookbook, part natural history, part fishing tales, part how to guide for selecting and preparing, Paul’s passion is found throughout. The book is essentially a healthy eating guide for both personal health and ocean health. Paul manages to demystify nearly every aspect of seafood from selecting, to cleaning, to understanding the biology of the fish, and ultimately to enjoying. Appendices entitled Health and Fish & Aquaculture Methods are insightful source of information. Perhaps as no surprise one of my favorite recipes from the book is for Creole Crayfish Risotto which goes nicely with a batch of my Jalapeno and Fresh Corn Cornbread. I can’t wait to try the Halibut Baked in Pumpkin Seed Mole.
The anecdotal information Paul provides throughout moves the compilation from merely recipes to a narrative of seafood as life and culture. A quote by Sir Walter Scott given in the book sums it up nicely…”It’s no fish ye’re buying-it’s men’s lives.”