One of the many blessings of living in Mississippi is the abundance of seafood right at our fingertips. My family and I love fresh seafood. We especially love spending a day fishing, trying to catch our own. I can’t think of a better way to spend a day than fishing with my family. Despite our obvious enthusiasm, there have been many a day when we did not catch anything worth gracing our dinner table. Luckily, we have several local seafood dealers where we can purchase locally caught fish.
So, what should we look for when purchasing fish? How can we be sure the fish we are buying is of good wholesome quality? We have all seen the recalls of food due to poor handling or unsanitary farming practices. How can we be sure our fish is harvested and handled safely?
To give us some insight on choosing the best fish for our dinner tables. I interviewed Sea Alis Seafood Company owner, Ryan Bradley. Mr. Bradley is a fifth-generation commercial fisherman. His love of fishing began at just six years old when he fished alongside his grandfather. Sea Alis sells locally caught finfish to several high-end restaurants and other seafood wholesalers. The company sells mostly in the state of Mississippi and has recently joined the Genuine MS marketing program with the Mississippi Department of Agriculture and Commerce to promote genuine Mississippi seafood. According to Mr. Bradley, these are the best practices for purchasing local seafood:
What to look for when purchasing fish?
The first and easiest thing to look at on a fish when buying whole is the eyes, you want to look for clear eyes. Cloudy eyes indicate older fish or poor handling. You also want to look at the gills as fresh fish will have bright red gills. You certainly want to avoid purchasing fish that have gills that have turned white. If you are buying fillets, you want to look for meat that is firm and semi-translucent. Fillets should not have a fishy smell, and you should avoid fillets that are mushy. When handling any type of fish, you want to keep it packed in ice with the water drained off. Vacuum sealing extends the shelf life significantly.
Where should I purchase my fish?
Personally, I only purchase seafood directly from legally licensed, local fishermen or from reputable seafood dealers that purchase directly from fishermen. My first choice is always Genuine Mississippi seafood or then American seafood. I absolutely refuse to purchase or consume any seafood that was not harvested and processed in the United States. I do not purchase foreign imported seafood because the risks of seafood fraud, adulterated seafood, or contaminated seafood are high because other countries are not held to the same standards as the US. I also try to avoid domestic seafood that has been processed at facilities that use a lot of preservatives.
What do you wish consumers knew?
Most of the seafood you eat in a restaurant is imported from another country. Nearly 95% of all seafood consumed in America is imported nowadays. Consumers should always ask where their seafood comes from and demand American seafood.
Your #1 advice for the consumer.
Get to know your local fishermen. Many of them sell directly to consumers and there really are no better food options than local, fresh, wild, and sustainable seafood.
Remember, on your next fishing adventure if you don’t catch a fish worthy of gracing your dinner table, take these tips to a local seafood dealer and buy freshly caught locally harvested fish.