Fishing For The Future: Sustainable Seafood Practices In India
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Sustainable seafood in India refers to a wide variety of species of fish that are either caught or cultivated, with the main focus on the conservation of the marine environment and promoting the livelihood of local people. Whether it is Indian Mackerel or Blue Swimming Crab, these varieties of seafood items provide the required nutritional value as well as more sustainability.

Individuals can contribute to the sustainable harvesting of marine life in India by supporting sustainable fisheries, participating in the formulation of policies, and maintaining sustainable practices when consuming seafood products. It is therefore essential to make sustainability in the seafood sector a priority, not only to protect marine biodiversity but also to ensure that future generations continue to benefit from these products and the cultural practices associated with their production.  

Sustainable seafood is food that is produced using fishing practices that are environmentally sustainable and that do not deplete the target species or harm the ecosystem. Sustainable fishing is an attempt to ensure that there will be fish in the water and that no harm is caused to the environment or the livelihoods of people who earn their living from fishing.

Here is a list of seafood that is commonly found in India:

1. Indian Mackerel (Bangda)

Bangda is celebrated not only for its health benefits but also for its versatility in culinary applications. Indian mackerel is a highly desirable and eco-friendly seafood product in India due to its fast population growth and abundant habitat along the Indian coastline. This fish is predominantly consumed in coastal regions like Maharashtra, Kerala, and Karnataka, where it features prominently in traditional dishes. In Maharashtra, it's often prepared as a spicy fried fish called "Bangda Fry," marinated with turmeric, chilli powder, and garlic. In Kerala, it's cooked in a tangy, coconut-based curry known as "Meen Curry," while in Karnataka, it might be used in a simple, aromatic "Bangude Pulimunchi," a sour-spicy curry. It is a sustainable forestry that is used due to its population being under reliable and eco-friendly management. 

2. Sardines (Pedvey)

Sardines are small, oily fish found in abundance along the Indian coastline, especially in the Arabian Sea. Their rapid growth and reproductive rates make them a sustainable seafood option. Sardines are most commonly consumed in coastal states like Kerala, Goa, and Maharashtra. In Kerala, they are typically prepared as "Mathi Fry," marinated with a blend of spices and shallow-fried until crispy. In Goa, sardines are often pickled or made into a tangy curry known as "Sardinha Balchao." In Maharashtra, they are enjoyed as "Pedvey Fry," spiced with local masalas and pan-fried. Their short lifespan means they accumulate fewer toxins, making them a healthy and environmentally sound choice.

3. Pomfret (Paplet)

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Pomfret, particularly the silver and black varieties, is a popular and sustainable choice in Indian seafood markets. The fish is most commonly consumed in coastal regions like Gujarat, Maharashtra, and Goa. In Gujarat, it's often prepared as "Paplet no Patio," a tangy and spicy tomato-based curry. In Maharashtra, pomfret is typically marinated in a mix of spices and shallow-fried, known as "Paplet Fry," which highlights its tender flesh. In Goa, it's popular in "Pomfret Recheado," where the fish is stuffed with a spicy, tangy red masala paste and grilled or fried. Sustainable fishing practices and regulations help maintain its populations, ensuring that Pomfret remains a viable option for consumers.

Also Read:

Bombay Duck Is Not A Duck, But Why Is It Called So?

4. Anchovies (Kozhuva)

Anchovies are small fish found in large schools along India's coastline, particularly in Kerala. They are highly productive and resilient, making them a sustainable seafood option. Anchovies are rich in protein and essential fatty acids and are commonly used in regional dishes such as curries and pickles. Found abundantly along India's coastline, Kozhuva are most popular in Kerala and along the west coast, where they are enjoyed fresh or dried. Fresh Kozhuva is often deep-fried or stir-fried with curry leaves and chillies for a quick and flavorful snack. Dried Kozhuva, called Meen Karampodi, is a staple ingredient in Kerala's fiery curries and adds a depth of umami flavour. Compared to European preparations, where anchovies are often preserved in oil, Indian preparations utilise fresh or dried forms, creating a distinct textural and taste experience.

5. Mud Crabs (Kankada)

Mud crabs, or "Kankada" in India, can be part of a sustainable seafood strategy when managed responsibly. These crustaceans have a high growth rate and some regions, like Andhra Pradesh, are actively promoting mud crab aquaculture to reduce pressure on wild populations. Packed with protein and low in fat, mud crabs are a delicious and nutritious choice. They are most popular along India's east and west coasts, particularly in Kerala, Goa, and Maharashtra. While Southeast Asia often favours large mud crabs steamed or grilled whole, Indian preparations are diverse. Kankada can be found simmered in fragrant coconut curries, stir-fried with fiery spices, or even deep-fried for a crispy and satisfying treat. This culinary creativity showcases the unique and flavourful ways India embraces mud crabs. 

6. Tilapia

Tilapia is rich in protein and low in fat, making it a healthy seafood option. It is most commonly consumed in inland regions where freshwater fish farming is prevalent, such as Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. In Andhra Pradesh, tilapia is often prepared as "Chepala Pulusu," a tangy and spicy fish curry simmered with tamarind and local spices. In Tamil Nadu, it might be enjoyed as "Meen Kuzhambu," a flavorful fish curry made with a base of tomatoes, tamarind, and a blend of spices. Tilapia is rich in protein and low in fat, making it a healthy and sustainable seafood choice. From crispy tilapia fries to flavourful curries and tikkas, Indian chefs utilise various techniques to create an explosion of textures and tastes. 

7. Bombay Duck (Bombil)

The Bombay Duck, despite its name, is a fish rather than a duck and is found along the western coast of India, particularly in Maharashtra and Gujarat. It is a sustainable choice due to its abundant population and low bycatch rates. In Maharashtra, it is often prepared as "Bombil Fry," where the fish is coated in a spiced gram flour batter and shallow-fried until crispy. In Gujarat, it is commonly pickled or dried and then cooked with spices to make a flavourful curry. In stark contrast to Southeast Asian countries where lizardfish might be steamed or grilled whole, Indian preparations celebrate Bombil's unique texture.

8. Blue Swimming Crab (Portunus pelagicus)

The Blue Swimming Crab, also known as "Nandu" in India, offers a mixed bag when it comes to sustainable practices. Compared to Southeast Asian preparations that often showcase the crab whole with simple steaming or grilling, Indian cuisine celebrates its rich flavour in diverse ways.  From the creamy curries of Kerala to the fiery "Masala Crab" of Goa, Indian chefs transform Nandu into a flavorful culinary experience. The Blue Swimming Crab, found along the Indian coastlines, is known for its sweet and succulent meat. In Tamil Nadu, they might be cooked as "Nandu Rasam," a spicy crab soup flavoured with tamarind and pepper. A powerhouse of protein and healthy fats, Blue Swimming Crab is a favourite along India's east and west coasts, particularly in Tamil Nadu, Kerala, and Goa.

9. Farmed Shrimp

Farmed shrimp, particularly the species Litopenaeus vannamei, is a significant contributor to India's seafood exports. When farmed responsibly, shrimp aquaculture can be a sustainable practice that supports local economies. Efforts to reduce environmental impacts include improved water management, sustainable feed sources, and certifications such as the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) label. Compared to Southeast Asian preparations that often focus on grilling or stir-frying whole shrimp, Indian cuisine offers a wider variety. From succulent curries like Chemeen Curry to flavourful tandoori preparations and even delectable shrimp fritters, Indian chefs showcase their culinary mastery using farmed shrimp. Farmed shrimp offers a versatile and nutritious seafood option. In urban areas, it is also popular in Indo-Chinese dishes such as shrimp fried rice or shrimp noodles, highlighting its versatility and widespread appeal.  

So, the next time you crave a delicious seafood dish, empower yourself with knowledge and choose wisely.