dandySHOPS: Hooked

The September 2011 issue of dandyhorse magazine will be our first Food Issue featuring guest editor Bob Blumer of the Food Network. In preparation for the Food Issue the dandyBLOG will be posting stories related to the important fuel all cyclists rely on, food.

Hooked Gives Fish Fiends a Knowledgeable Option

Story and photo by Saira Peesker

It’s not the customers who ask for fish that doesn’t taste “too fishy” that really bug Hooked co-owner Kristen Donovan. It’s the ones that come into her east-end sustainable seafood shop and get fussy when they can’t buy bluefin tuna--one of the most sought-after and endangered fish in the oceans.

“You want to have a gong on the wall but you can’t,” said Kristin, who runs the Queen Street East store with her husband Dan. “We try to not be preachy... Sometimes people come in and they’re just happy it’s a fish store, which is great.“

Both trained chefs, the couple opened the store in March as an attempt to run a food-focused business that didn’t force them to work long hours away from their kids. Dan, who trained under locavore celebrity chef Jamie Kennedy, said they noticed there were no good fish mongers in their Leslieville neighbourhood and took it from there.

“That the business dealt only in sustainable fish and shellfish, we didn’t give it two thoughts,” he said, taking a break on the sunny private patio nestled behind the store. “It was just a deep personal conviction... that occupied all of about 20 seconds in the business plan.”

But as anyone trying to do the right thing knows, making ethical choices isn’t always a black or white decision.

Hooked looks to sources such as Ocean Wise, Sea Choice and the Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program for guidance, but since none of those programs are Ontario-specific, it often comes down to their own common sense. Kristin says they look at a fish’s source, seasonality and position on the endangered list, but also the methods used to catch it.

Methods they lean toward at Hooked include:

  • “hook and line,” the traditional fishing pole method;
  • trap-netting, where a large version of a lobster trap catches fish live, allowing those not desired by fisherfolk to be set free without injury; and
  • purse seine, in which a net closes around a school of small fish such as mackerel or sardines, leaving other species unharmed.

They also often get “bycatch,” fish accidentally caught by fishermen looking for a different species.

“We won’t deal with anything that’s trawled,” said Kristin, describing a method where fishers drag nets across the bottom of the ocean, with an effect not unlike clear-cutting a forest. “It wipes out everything.”

They also steer clear from long-line fishing, in which many non-desirable fish are caught by accident and wasted.

Both owners encouraged anyone who’s concerned about our lakes and oceans to stop buying fish from sellers who can’t say where it came from and how it was caught.

“Ask (where your fish came from), but understand that most restaurants and most grocery stores won’t have the answers,” said Kristin. “The ones who are truly committed will.”

“The only way retailers are ever going to respond is if people stop accepting no answer,” added Dan. “Until consumers are willing to do that, they’re not going to get a clear understanding of where their fish comes from.”

Still looking for help in choosing the right fish? Seafood Watch, Ocean Wise and Sea Choice all have smartphone apps to help consumers make ethical choices.

888 Queen Street East
Toronto, ON
M4M 1J3
(416) 828-1861


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