The struggle to preserve our threatened fish populations, such as the bluefin tuna, is complicated. On the one hand, they are an important source of protein for humans, as well as a source of income for the men and women who fish and distribute them. On the other hand, the ocean’s ecological health depends on sustainable populations. Finding the balance is key, but government regulation is often suspect, and consumers are not always well-informed. Executive Chef Olivier Loreaux has taken these slippery matters into his own hands.
The Orange-Spotted Grouper
Writing for The National, Vesela Todorova reports that the hammour, or orange-spotted grouper, is one of the UAE’s most threatened fish varieties, fished seven times beyond sustainable levels.
It is also as much a staple of the local Abu Dhabi diet as hommous and tabouleh, says Loreaux.
But inspired by the Choose Wisely campaign launched by the Emirates Wildlife Society in conjunction with the World Wildlife Fund (WES-WWF), and actually escorted to the Abu Dhabi fish market by campaigner Nesreen Al Zahlawi, Loreaux has challenged his chefs to create menus that serve up more sustainable fish varieties.
Faskar is better
“One alternative is the two-bar seabream, also known in Arabic as faskar, which Amalfi, the hotel’s Italian restaurant, serves in potato crust with stewed zucchini and aubergine,” according to Todorova.
It is also among seven local species that are not threatened, and can therefore be eaten without restrictions.
“At Soba, a Japanese restaurant, faskar features in a sashimi dish. It is accompanied by the king soldier bream, or kofar, and the small tooth emperor, or souli. These two fish are listed among four species that the campaign recommends be eaten in moderation,” says Todorova.
Fit for a la carte, but not buffet
Though hammour has been removed from his menu, the Executive Chef explains that it is still served a la carte in some of Le Royal Méridien’s other restaurants. However, none of the hotel’s restaurants are stacking supplies of hammour on the buffet table.
Chef Olivier is the only person in Abu Dhabi who has taken the initiative to insist on sustainable fish varieties, but Todorova reports that the EWS campaigners are lobbying hard and expect other hotels and restaurants will eventually come on board.
No more Bluefin Tuna
“We no longer offer bluefin tuna and we are drastically reducing the amount of hammour and kingfish options available on our menus and in our buffets. We are looking at ways to raise awareness of these issues among our colleagues and our guests,” says Michael Pearson, the executive chef at the Shangri-La Hotel, Qaryat Al Beri.
While consumers might be expected to pucker for their favorite fish, so far they have been cooperative. Could this be a sign that the local campaign to think more deeply about fish is starting to swim?
:: The National
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