By Nikki Bayley
Many visitors to the west coast are drawn by its zingingly fresh seafood, famous the world over for being some of the very best that the ocean has to offer. However, overfishing is the greatest threat to all our oceans today and according to Ocean Wise, the Vancouver Aquarium conservation program which launched a decade ago to help consumers make environmentally friendly choices, “…an estimated 90% of all large, predatory fish are already gone from the world’s oceans. A recent scientific study predicted a world-wide fisheries collapse by 2048. The only solution is to turn back from the brink, and to begin consuming seafood in a sustainable manner.”
Robert Clark and Mike McDermid are two men on a mission to change the way that we think about buying and eating seafood. After helping create and launch the Ocean Wise programme, they’ve taken the next step and have opened the west coast’s very first all-sustainable seafood store, The Fish Counter, which also boasts a take-out counter (with one of the city’s only gluten-free fryers) cooking up some of the best fish and chips, oyster po’boys and fish tacos in the city.
Like a farmer’s market, but for fish, Rob and Mike work directly with fishermen so there’s an ever-changing variety of seafood available to try. Each season brings its own seafood treasures, Rob explains:
“At the end of March halibut is the first fresh fish to come out of the ocean, it’s always good at that time of year and it’s a fish that everyone needs to eat. In May you should switch up to spot prawns and gorge on them for the whole short season through to June!
Then the salmon begins to come in, here in BC we have five varieties to pick from and within those varieties there are at least four major rivers that produce them: the Fraser, Skeena, Nass and Barkley Sound. Those four river groups all bring a different taste, a different oil content and different qualities to the salmon.
On June 10th fishermen start fishing the Skeena and the first fresh salmon that comes on the line is spring or chinook salmon. That doesn’t last too long before it switches to sockeye, then pink and then coho, it goes back and forth as the fish head south from the northern rivers. Look out for Nass River Sockeye, the flavour and oil content is wonderful, sockeye can go dry when you cook it but these are moist and succulent. There’s lots of pink salmon coming down from Haida Gwaii, it can be hard to find but it’s worth seeking out. Then in late August or early September watch out for sockeye from the Fraser River and chum salmon. In August we also get our sustainable and delicious ling cod coming through too.
As sablefish and albacore tuna tend to be frozen at sea to capture their quality, they are available year-round, but BC shellfish shines in the fall and winter, we have excellent quality shellfish throughout theyear, but we have more variety of oysters in the cooler months; everyone loves Kuushi oysters, those are BC jewels and I love the Sawmill Bay oysters too. Fall is also a wonderful time for salmon caviar which is harvested from the chum salmon.”
The Fish Counter can be found at 3825 Main Street near 23rd avenue.