Today – 8th June – is World Oceans Day*, a day for raising awareness about just how much we rely on the oceans for our survival, and just how rapidly we are damaging them, and those that live in, on and around them.
The more I learn about the ocean and the mysterious world below the waters surface, the more I am in awe of it and ashamed about how badly we humans treat it. It’s hard for anyone who has read the news, watched David Attenborough’s Blue Planet or the recent documentary Seaspiracy to not be at least a little aware of what’s going on. But the problems continue to grow and actions taken are too little (hopefully not too late).
Here’s a few amazing facts about the oceans:
- 70% of the world’s surface is covered by the ocean
- At least 50% of oxygen is produced by the ocean
- 20 times more carbon is captured in the ocean compared to land forests
- More biodiversity than anywhere else on the planet
- The worlds longest mountain chain is underwater!
- There’s still so much of the oceans that are yet to be explored – who knows what’s down there?
This last one is fascinating – what we don’t know yet. But we do know lots about our effect on the ocean, and it’s not pretty reading
- Overfishing has drastically reduced fish numbers with 90% of big fish populations in decline
- Coral reefs, areas of amazing diversity, are dying and reduced by 50%
- Plastic pollution is so bad that fish contain microplastics
- Heavy metal pollution is a big issue too, with mercury, lead and cadmium found in larger fish
- Kelp forests that capture carbon are rapidly shrinking
- Rising sea temperatures due to global warming reduce the ocean’s ability to capture carbon (and so the temperature continues to rise)
- The fishing industry is a major contributor to damage in the seas and to local communities, and kills aquatic life caught in those huge industrial nets. Hundreds of thousands of dolphins, sharks, turtles and more die this way as ‘by catch’.
And so much more but I’ll stop there as I don’t want to depress you. But we can all do something about it. Plastic pollution is all our responsibility, so cutting down on that is key. But it’s worth noting that nearly 50% of the plastic and debris found in the ocean and on beaches comes from the fishing industry…….
Fish stocks are so low that they need to be left to recover. This means not eating fish. Leave them for bigger fish! They got there first…… Left to their own devices, fish stocks, ocean flora and fauna can recover remarkably quickly. But we need to let this happen, not keep taking.
There’s lots of alternatives – even my local fish and chip shop has started running vegan Wednesday with fish alternatives like Tofish or banana blossom. And there are many fish alternatives being developed, similar to meat alternatives. I’m not actually a big fan of these as these can create other problems for people with food intolerances or underlying health or inflammatory conditions. So what to do?
I’ve been playing around with some options in my kitchen. So far I’ve come up with these ingredients that work well:
- tofu/smoked tofu. Needs to be extra firm for the texture
- jackfruit. Plain tinned jackfruit absorbs flavour well and can form white flakes similar to flaked fish
- okara (the pulp leftover from making soya milk). This makes awesome ‘crab cakes’ and the like but not readily available unless you are making your own soya milk!
- nori. Sheets of nori are easy to find in the shop and adds a ‘fishy’ flavour as well as iodine
- capers. Adds a fish-like flavour to certain dishes
I’ll be experimenting more with these as fish is off our menu so good plant-based options are a must. For today, though, here’s my version of no-fish pie. It’s super tasty, packed with protein from the tofu with a lovely creamy texture from the sauce. A gorgeous plant-based alternative perfect for celebrating the oceans by not taking anything (apart from a little seaweed) from them, just giving appreciation and gratitude for Mother Nature and the oceans inhabitants.
- 2 medium potatoes scrubbed or peeled and diced
- ½ small swede or sweet potato peeled and diced
- 1 sheet nori
- 1 medium onion sliced
- 1 medium leek sliced
- 2 medium carrots diced
- 100 g mushrooms wiped and sliced
- 200 ml dairy free cream I used Oatley
- 300 g extra firm tofu - plain or smoked diced
- 1 heaped teaspoon dried tarragon or 2 tablespoons of fresh tarragon
- 100 g peas
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Cook the diced potatoes and swede/sweet potato in boiling water until soft and mashable
- Break the nori sheet into small pieces and pop in a small bowl. Cover with hot water and leave to soften.
- Heat a couple of tablespoons of water in the base of a medium-sized pan (ideally oven proof so you don’t need to transfer it and create more washing up!) and add the onion, leek and carrots plus a pinch of salt. Pop on the lid and sweat the veggies on a medium/low heat for approximately 10 minutes until they are beginning to soften.
- Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for another 5 minutes before pouring in the cream along with the tofu, tarragon and peas. Stir well and simmer for a couple of minutes.
- Drain the nori and squeeze it in the sieve to get rid of most the water. Add it to the pan and mix well. Simmer for another minute then turn off the heat and season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC.
- By now the potatoes and swede should be ready so drain off the water and return the veg to the pan to mash – add a little dairy-free milk and seasoning if you desire.
- Spread the mash over the top of the no-fish mix and fluff up with a fork to make little peaks.
- Place in the oven and bake for 15-20 minutes until the mix is bubbling up and the mask starts to brown. Alternatively, you can place directly under a pre-heated grill and brown the top that way.
- Serve with extra greens on the side.
- UN World Oceans Day Website https://www.un.org/en/observances/oceans-day
- Facts from Seaspiracy https://earth.org/facts-from-seaspiracy/
- Amazing facts about the seas https://www.trafalgar.com/real-word/10-unbelievable-facts-ocean/