Halibut, cod eaters in crisis as climate change eats away at Scottish heritage

Written by By Sinead Brennan, CNN

Halibut is Scotland’s favorite fish. On the menu of the likes of Jamie Oliver and Gok Wan, the popular saltwater species is considered a “luxury” food in the country. So it’s only fitting that if climate change melts it away, Scots will make it their own — crafting a new cuisine.

Earlier this month, the Scottish government announced the launch of an unprecedented program to strengthen marine habitat and improve fish stocks across the country. This includes a new 25-million euro ($30 million) program that seeks to conserve the country’s most vital fishing grounds.

That program is part of an ongoing government endeavor to create “a Great Sea economy and sustainable, low-carbon, food and drink industry for Scotland, and in doing so, avoid the sector-wide industrial impacts which have lead to other economies divesting from Scottish food and drink.”

Halibut and cod are the most iconic British and Irish fish, whose harvests have traditionally been relied upon to generate hard currency for the Scottish economy.

But their declining health is putting pressure on global fisheries populations — and that’s why Scots are seeking alternatives.

Writing in the Guardian , London chef and British Foods chairman, Roger Mosey , declared: “Halibut isn’t for everyone, but it’s a no-brainer, and sustainable.

“With no predators, it thrives.”

Furthermore, meat from Scottish salmon, salmon steaks and a range of ocean-inspired steaks — such as chargrilled seabass with lemon butter, or “Finn” with capers and anchovies — have transformed into high-street staples.

Contemporary Scottish foodies have made a direct link between the country’s thriving food and drink industry and the protection of its original fisheries.

The country’s pioneering food scene, which dates back to the 16th century, has created an entirely new food culture and use for traditional Scottish ingredients, including mussels and reared game.

In 2015, thousands of pounds of funding was awarded to the Scottish Wild Salmon Society, and Culinary Scotland, as part of a project to develop a new season-specific cooking school.

“Our inspiration is still rooted in traditional Scottish-produced ingredients, but has taken a more contemporary and progressive approach to accommodate for and sustain the challenges faced by world markets as well as new consumers,” explained Anna Balfour, head of marketing at Culinary Scotland.

Properties aimed at helping sustainable working practices by expanding markets, including Scotland’s largest buffet restaurant, beside the Old Course in St. Andrews, while institutions like Les Houches in Glasgow aim to convert workers to sustainable dining habits.

Other funds have been used to spread environmental messages through social media, including the “Halibut is Made in Scotland” and “Let’s Weigh Fish” campaigns.

It’s all part of the campaign to end sustainable food wastage, which affects one in three seafood products around the world.

In October, Natural Resources Defense Council released a report that ranked countries on their commitment to improve their food conservation practices.

Scotland came in fifth place, while the UK and the US ranked 20th and 24th respectively. Of the 113 countries ranked, Australia was only just beaten by the Netherlands.

Ending food waste has been a much-discussed cause for people across the world, with millions of kilograms of cooked products excreting carbon dioxide each year.

(Food waste is also not only environmentally damaging, but also unnecessary: According to the EPA, a barrel of oil will produce 0.35 kilograms of greenhouse gas, while simply throwing a piece of food in the trash will release approximately 100 kilograms of CO2.)

Investment in coastal and marine conservation has also been high in 2018.

This December, three new national parks in Louisiana — just north of New Orleans — officially opened their doors to visitors.

These parks have been designed to prevent oil and chemical pollution from ever reaching the local sea.

The park, known as Northern Kentucky National Park, is home to saltwater marsh habitat and home to Mississippi river and inland waterways.

Louisiana’s Lake Pontchartrain National Park and the Lake Charles National Wildlife Refuge are also both protected from pollution.

For its part, Scotland’s environmental legislation doesn’t currently include any national parks.

Nicolle Schumacher, director of the Save the Arctic campaign, applauded the proposed protection, and said that “more national parks will only prevent the dumping of ever-addictive pollutants into the land, water and oceans of an already endangered Arctic region.”

“The federal government must make the health of the Arctic a top priority now — it is,” she added.

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