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Rachel Lehmann-Haupt

Senior Editor, TED Books, TED Books

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Live Q&A at 3:00PM Eastern: Why do the choices we make about the seafood we eat play a part in a complex and interconnected ecosystem?

In her new TED Book, The Whole Fish, author and food writer Maria Finn will discuss her recent journey into the 'whole food' cooking movement, one that advocates eating the entire fish from gill to adipose fin. It's an approach that can not only improve your heath, happiness, and sex life, but also help save the complex ecosystem that supports the ocean.

The Whole Fish includes seafood recipes from some of the best chefs in the business; get ready for fish head soup, broiled collars, brined eggs, relish from the fatty bellies, baked skins for “fish bacon,” dried bones for grinding into “salt."

Kindle: http://www.amazon.com/The-Whole-Fish-Adventurous-ebook/dp/B009W4BOL4
iOS: https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-whole-fish/id573208529?mt=11

And here's an article about the book in The San Francisco Chronicle: http://www.sfgate.com/books/article/Maria-Finn-dedicated-to-using-The-Whole-Fish-4067417.php

Author Maria Finn will be joining us here for a one-hour Q&A Thursday, January 3rd, from 3:00-4:00pm. Mark your calendars!

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    Jan 3 2013: We are nation struggling with lifestyle diseases such as obesity, heart disease, cancer, and Type 2 diabetes that could be avoided for many if we changed our diets, as you suggest. Do you see efforts in schools to get kids interested in the whole foods movement? Eating a whole fish might be a little off-putting to a child.
    • Jan 3 2013: Hi Jim,

      I think what we eat, and like to eat comes from habit and culture. In Norway, people eat herring for breakfast; here, people rarely touch it. If we make parts of the fish something children will enjoy and put them in dishes they like, then they will start to eat them. Children will reach for sugar and fats before a vegetable and fish, but if they get good habits when they are young, this will help with their lifestyle as they become adults.

      take care,
      Maria
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    Jan 3 2013: Hey Maria! So, my New Year's resolution (which I made in public, foolishly) was to try not to eat fish at all, inspired by Sylvia Earle. But I am really struggling, both because fish is really delicious and because it's such a healthy food.
    My question for you is: Have you ever felt that same urge, just to abandon fish altogether?
    • Jan 3 2013: Hi Emily,

      Why would you do that? Just eat sustainable fish. Sardines are plentiful and considered Very Sustainable by Seafood Watch. (My favorite are Wild Planet--a great company). Also, wild Pacific salmon is sustainable. There are some wonderful tilapia farms in the United States where the fish help fertilize crops. As well, oyster farms are good for the environment. You can also join a Community Supported Fishery and help support our small fishing boats who are trying to fish responsibly. So eat seafood, just make conscious choices.

      Thanks for the question,

      maria
  • Jan 3 2013: Hi Rachel,

    Thanks so much for having me on.

    Years ago, I went to Alaska to make lots of money in the fishing industry. I made very little money, but had the adventure of a lifetime working eight fishing seasons in Alaska. At first I worked on commercial boats and had a young female skipper for salmon and herring fishing. Experiences out at sea taught me tremendous awe and respect for the ocean and its creatures. Later, I worked along rivers off the road system in remote field camps monitoring the salmon swimming upstream for the Alaska Department of Fish & Game. While on the Yukon Delta, I had a lot of interaction with the local Yupiks and many of the women showed me how they prepared salmon to dry for the winter. They also used the heads, bellies, eggs-- all the parts.

    Currently, I live in the San Francisco Bay area and write about food quite a bit. There's been a trend with foodies in using all parts of the animal as a way to show respect, waste less, and save money. My experiences in Alaska seemed to come full circle, particularly as sustainable seafood and states of our oceans are reaching critical points.
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    Jan 3 2013: I'm afraid our time is almost up. Maria, thank you so much for taking the time to share your thoughts with us. I look forward to seeing what you write next!

    To our participants, thank you as always for sharing your excellent questions. We hope to see you again soon for the next TED book chat!
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    Jan 3 2013: Overfishing is my greatest fear. Our oceans will die without the life they support. E. O. Wilson, Jonathan Safron Foer, Bjorn Lomberg, Michael Pollan, and Thomas L. Friedman have been instrumental in shaping my opinion of the way we consume. I wonder how drastically even eating an entire fish will reduce the amount of bycatch and overfished areas of ocean. Do you think it will make that big of a difference?
    • Jan 3 2013: Hi Jordan,

      Honestly, I don't know. I feel like we are coming up with small solutions for enormous problems. Overfishing is one of them and so we can avoid species that are overfished--Chilean Sea Bass and many types of tuna come to mind. And we can support the small fishing boats and try to outlaw large factory trawlers. The shark finning industry kills 8 million sharks a DAY. Shark fin soup is on menus in San Francisco. As well, we have ocean acidification as a very real problem that will threaten our estuaries and oysters. And there's rampant habitat destruction going on around the world. But I think we are starting to learn about the consequences of our behavior and that there will be real consequences for all of us, so hopefully we can change our habits--eating, transportation, farming, waste, all of it, and help turn things around.

      take care,
      Maria
  • Jan 3 2013: Is the preparation of the multiple parts of a fish hard to do? More-so, will I jeopardize my health by preparing something wrong, or is it all beneficial. This would then lead to me to wonder about the taste of "everything" and the importance of preparation...
    • Jan 3 2013: Hi James,

      I'm not sure any parts are dangerous, but the gills taste bad and I'd avoid them. And like any food preparation, you want to make sure the fish is fresh as possible. (Fresh frozen can be good as well). The prime fillets or the perfect oysters don't need much of anything, but a fish head I use for stock and add ginger and seaweed. So yes, preparation is important.

      thanks,
      Maria
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    Jan 3 2013: A question from Facebook... why eat the gills/bones/etc, versus tossing them in the compost?
    • Jan 3 2013: Hi Aja,

      Toss the gills and bloodline into the compost. As for eating the other parts, think of it as a culinary adventure and the skin, collar and eggs are the oil parts of the salmon with the highest concentrations of Omega-3s, so they are the healthiest.

      M.
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    Jan 3 2013: The issue of fish farming is interesting... what makes a sustainable fish farm v. one that is bad for the environment?
    • Jan 3 2013: There are lots of ways a fish farm can be unsustainable. With salmon farms, they often have 500,000-750,000 fish in an offshore pen. Due to the crowding, they have to be administered antibiotics, sometimes very high levels. These, along with the fecal matter, kill everything around them. They are often Atlantic salmon being farmed in the Pacific, so if they escape and mix with wild stock, or their sea lice get on wild salmon, they can spread disease. As well, three pounds of wild caught herring and sardines are made into feed to produce one pound of farmed salmon. In regions these forage fish are being overfished, the entire eco-system could collapse. Also, shrimp farms are often very problematic as they pollute coastlines, and often times mangroves or important estuary areas are destroyed to farm them. As well, they can get really overcrowded and filthy. I think people wouldn't want to eat shrimp farmed abroad if they knew the details. So fish farms that are closed systems, so they don't pollute local waterways, feed fish a vegetarian diet, or a very low ration of wild caught fish to farmed fish, and don't overcrowd and use antibiotics are considered much more sustainable. Oyster, mussel and clam farms are in bays and estuaries, but these are actually very good for the environment as they work as filters to clean the bays. And, as we learned from Hurricane Sandy, they might have helped protect NYC and New Jersey from the storms.

      thanks,
      Maria
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    Jan 3 2013: Maria, I'm curious if you've seen Dan Barber's TED Talk on a better method of farming fish, and if so, what your thoughts are on the future of farmed vs. wild fish? http://www.ted.com/talks/dan_barber_how_i_fell_in_love_with_a_fish.html
    • Jan 3 2013: Hi Aja,

      I did see that wonderful TED Talk by Dan Barber. I think it's an exciting new frontier. Right now salmon farms are unsustainable. They pollute the surrounding waters and use wild fish from the ocean to feed them. I wrote about a project in Nova Scotia about integrated aquaculture, which is similar to the Dan Barber talk. In the way that permaculture farming uses diversity, aquafarms can do this as well. There are some great projects underway. One example is McFarland Trout in Northern California that uses vegetarian fish feed and the waste from the fish is used to fertilize pastures. As well, it's powered by the local stream. So not all are bad, just some,(mostly tuna and salmon) and in particular the huge industrial fish farms.

      best,
      Maria
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    Jan 3 2013: Maria - So interesting that you saw a trend burgeoning years ago in Alaska that is now hot in the food culture....tell us a little bit about how this kind of eating helps the environment, specifically what you call the "sea web"?
    • Jan 3 2013: Hi Rachel,

      The "sea web' refers to the interconnectness of everything. Today I just read that the company Unilever that makes facial cleanser uses microbeads made of plastic. These go down your drain and into our ocean. So from how we fertilize our lawns to the products we use on our face, not to mention the carbon monoxide released into the air, all impacts the ocean and the fish we eat. So we can no longer think that everything is separate or disconnected. Using "The Whole Fish" is actually a metaphor for our ecosystems that are inter-related.

      best,
      Maria
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    Jan 3 2013: Hi Maria! Wow, it sounds like you lead a fascinating life! Okay, so I have to ask... the whole fish? Even the bones? :)
    • Jan 3 2013: Hi Aja,

      Yes, even the bones! The chefs at C Restaurant in Vancouver contributed a recipe for salmon salt. Dry the bones, grind them up and mix one part salt to bones. Also, the chef at Prospect Restaurant in San Francisco contributed a recipe for smoked salmon bone chowder that is wonderful.

      take care,
      Maria
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    Jan 3 2013: Hello all, and welcome to this live Q&A with author Maria Finn!

    Maria, thank you for joining us. Your book, The Whole Fish, has some fascinating ideas about how eating the whole fish can help the environment.

    To start off, I wanted to ask… how did you come up with the idea for the book? I understand that you worked as one of a few female fisherwomen in Alaska and learned a lot from Native Americans?