Just because you’re landlocked in The Villages doesn’t mean you can’t have great seafood.
When we recently put the question “Where is the best seafood in The Villages…and what do you order?” out on our Facebook page we got more than 20 responses. Here are just a few:
We also had a poll option where our Facebook fans could vote on their favorite place. At the time of this writing, Bonefish took the top spot with 23 votes and Lighthouse Point Bar & Grille took 2nd with 13 votes.
Florida fishermen catch more than 83 percent of the nation’s supply of grouper, pompano, mullet, stone crab, pink shrimp, spiny lobsters, and Spanish mackerel. However, during the past several years, the influx of lower-cost, imported seafood has displaced local seafood in many commercial markets along with the rich traditions associated with it. For example, in 2009 imports made up 84% of the seafood Americans consumed.
This September Publix Supermarkets and Darden Restaurants (parent company of Red Lobster and Olive Garden) announced their commitment to rebuilding the Gulf of Mexico’s stressed fish stocks. The two Florida-based companies will be working with the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership (SFP), a Honolulu nonprofit whose mission is to rebuild depleted fish stocks and reduce the environmental impacts of fishing and fish farming.
Darden Restaurants is one of the world’s largest seafood buyers and Publix Supermarkets is one of the largest seafood sellers in the state. The partnership role of the company’s with seems to be primarily financial. Publix does say their seafood stewardship includes ensuring all their seafood comes from legal fisheries and that they try to source domestically whenever possible. They do note, however, that “the seafood industry is such that we must source product from all over the world.”
Publix also says they do not participate in any seafood eco-labeling, which is meant to inform consumers about sustainable seafood, because the program inconsistencies are “confusing” and certification is cost-prohibitive for small industry fisheries.
Darden Restaurants says it is committed to purchasing wild harvested and aquacultured species from sustainable sources. Also, their brands do not serve species such as Chilean sea bass, orange roughy or an type of shark, because these species are currently overfished. They also monitor fish stocks to evaluate if other items should also be removed from their menus.
Is it Safe?
Florida seafood took a big blow during the Deepwater Horizon (BP) oil spill during 2010. Media reports claim that more than 60 percent of Floridians are still concerned about the quality of seafood from the Gulf. To help assure consumers that the seafood is safe, the Florida Department of Agriculture has created MyFloridaGulfSafe.com. According to the web site, “Florida Gulf seafood was never affected by the oil spill of over a year ago. It’s safe now and always was. We make sure of that by continually testing Florida Gulf seafood using the most stringent standards available.”
Is It Sustainable?
Seafood is sustainable when the population of that species of fish is managed in a way that provides for today’s needs without damaging the ability of the species to reproduce and be available for future generations. This takes into account seafood stocks, harvesting and processing practices.
The seafood profiled above is labeled with a sustainability index from Monterey Aquarium’s Seafood Watch for the Southeast Region.
Tips for Purchasing Local Seafood
Buy from Reputable Vendors:
Just because someone is selling seafood out of a cooler at a road side stand, doesn’t mean they are local or legitimate. Purchasing seafood from reputable licensed vendors helps to ensure products are harvested, processed and sold according to federal, state, and local regulations. To find where you can purchase Florida seafood products visit: https://www.fdacs.gov/Consumer-Resources/Buy-Fresh-From-Florida/Seafood-Retail-Markets
Talk to your Fish Mongers:
If you have questions/concerns about the products you are purchasing, talk to the people who are selling them to you. Legitimate fish mongers should be able to provide you with the details you are seeking. Ask them for suitable alternatives if you cannot find the product you looking for.
Know your Seasons:
Being an informed consumer means knowing when and where fresh seafood is available. Just as Florida produce has “peak” seasons of availability, so does Florida seafood. The Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services provides consumers with a helpful resource in identifying what times of the year fresh Florida seafood products are available: https://www.fdacs.gov/Consumer-Resources/Buy-Fresh-From-Florida/Seafood-Products
Choose Suitable Alternatives:
In some cases it might not be possible to buy Florida-harvested seafood. The product might be out of season or unavailable, it could be too expensive, or it simply is not harvested in the area (i.e. salmon or sea scallops). When possible consider purchasing seafood products that are harvested regionally or in the U.S. to further support the long-term health and sustainability of domestic fisheries. To learn more about U.S seafood visit: http://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/fishwatch/
Over to you. Have a favorite restaurant and/or favorite seafood dish in The Villages? Let us know in the comments below.