What’s the story on my fish? A local insight from Ron Gorman
Last month I became a mild fish enthusiast after preparing a pretty good BC wild rock sole meal for the first time.
I was so grateful for the sole that I contacted my friendly and generous fish seller/entrepreneur Ron Gorman to get his perspective on the local industry.
My conversation with Ron reminded me of our power to help each other make better food choices. When we ask questions about our food sources, demand local foods or make small shifts towards eating healthier we are creating a happier and more exciting world. Believe it!
More on that below. For a mental break, scroll to the bottom for a highly recommended lingcod recipe with coconut yellow curry sauce.
1. Ron, what brought you to the fish industry?
For 10 years I worked with youth with high risk behaviours/challenges at the Ministry of Children and Family Development. When the stress took its toll, I knew I had to make some career changes.
At the time, my father Ron Senior wanted to grow his business selling local wild seafood within BC and we decided to build that opportunity through the farmers markets.
I didn’t have any prior interest or experience with the fish industry so the learning curve was huge. But as I learned the business, I began to appreciate the industry’s value including how committed my father and his colleagues were towards establishing best practices – long before sustainability became a mainstream topic.
I was hooked, so to speak. Plus there were many westcoast industry practices to brag about that hadn’t been reflected in the media, so the business became an opportunity for a son to take pride in a father’s livelihood!
2. It seems to me that there’s plenty of coverage around the controversies in our meat industry but I don’t hear much about fish except that high levels of mercury in tuna for example, are an issue.
A good rule of thumb when hearing/reading something in the media about fish is to find out whether this is accurate for the westcoast or the area you live in.
Westcoast albacore tuna is a regularly tested product and has consistently low levels of toxins as is the case with all wild product destined for the Canadian marketplace.
Here is another “brag” about westcoast practice: in 1994, a group of trawl fisherman* including my dad, created the Canadian Groundfish Research and Conservation Society (CGRCS).
Since then, the members have contributed their own money into maintaining a unique system of accountability towards statistics of fish being caught, sizes and development, setting aside areas for spawning and developing stocks in collaboration with the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and other industry stakeholders.
*Trawl fishing is where nets drag behind the boat with trawl doors to keep nets in place.
3. What would say are major challenges within the fish industry?
1. A majority of our high quality wild stocks are shipped out to international markets for extremely low prices and we receive imports of lower quality farmed product in our local supermarkets.
2. British Columbians have lost industry jobs because companies are outsourcing to places like China where labour is cheaper.
3. BC families are still not aware of what bounty the westcoast has to offer, which hinders local economic growth while benefiting big business.
4. What can I do as a consumer to help the local industry?
Ask your local supermarket or restaurant where their fish is from and whether it is wild or farmed (wild is of a higher quality than farmed).
An action like this sends a message that consumers want local foods, which will increase local purchases, strengthen small businesses and encourage sustainable practices.
It is already happening – major food chains and big brands are starting to echo farmers market trends.
5. What’s your vision for the business, Ron?
I wish I had learned how to create financial wealth when I was younger so that I had more career options to choose from than a traditional job.
I would love to see the farmers markets that I’m involved with build connections with local high schools to increase entrepreneurial awareness among our students!
I am also working on an initiative to sell local fish (with family friendly prices) at school fundraisers where the proceeds will go towards the cause.
Look for Ron on Twitter @WildWildWestSea
CGRCS Stephen Wong’s lingcod recipe with coconut yellow curry sauce
1 lb. boneless lingcod fillets, cut into bite-sized slices
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp cornstarch
1 (400ml) can coconut milk
2 tbsp Thai yellow curry paste
1 tbsp chopped shallots
2 tsp minced ginger root
2 tbsp fish sauce (nam pla), or to taste
Salt and sugar to taste
4 – 6 kaffir lime leaves, very thinly sliced
1 large tomato, chopped
8 -10 Thai or sweet basil leaves, coarsely chopped
1. Season Lingcod fillets lightly with salt and pepper. Toss in cornstarch until evenly coated and set aside
2. In a wok or skillet over medium high heat, bring half of the coconut milk to a boil
3. Add curry paste, shallots and ginger, stir and cook for 2 to 3 minutes and cook or until the fat begins to separate.
4. Add remaining coconut milk and lime leaves; stir and bring to boil
5. Season with fish sauce, salt and sugar to taste
6. Add chopped tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes
7. Add lingcod and bring to boil. Stir in basil leaves. Serve over steamed rice with sautéed vegetables like snow peas and carrots