There is a greeting for Chinese New Year, “May there be abundance every year.” The Chinese word for surplus and abundance is a homonym for fish (鱼, pronounced yu) and for this special occasion, many families come together to celebrate by serving up a whole fish to symbolize abundance and prosperity in all aspects of life: health, wealth and friendship.

This particular expression hits home for many reasons. Many of us, including myself, are choosing to eat more sustainably sourced seafood to ensure that our families and future generations can continue to enjoy the seafood we love today. Every family has varied traditions and celebrations for Lunar New Year but many of them revolve around family and food.

Parents, grandparents and close acquaintances give red envelopes with money inside to children for good luck on Chinese New Year.

Parents, grandparents and close acquaintances give red envelopes with money inside to children for good luck on Chinese New Year.

In my family, the Chinese New Year reunion dinner is a big deal. It is quite possibly the most important meal of the year to eat together and my mom would not tolerate any excuses for not showing up! My parents have been cooking steamed fish for as long as I can remember and to this day, it’s still one of my favourite comfort foods. It is something I miss when I go abroad and something I look forward to when coming home.

For Lunar New Year, Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise team decided to share a story of how just one fish could have so many connections to family, culture and the sustainability of our food system and ecosystem.

We teamed up with our restaurant and community partners, Floata Seafood Restaurant and hua foundation, to create a video that highlighted the traditional and quintessential Cantonese dish: steamed whole fish. We shared stories about our families and the importance of fish while learning how to prepare and cook this dish from Chef Cho at Floata. One of the simplest and most classic methods is steamed fish cooked with some julienned ginger, scallions and cilantro topped with sizzling hot oil and soy sauce. It is important to serve the fish with the head and tail intact to ensure a good beginning and end to the new year.

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For this video, we featured closed containment farmed tilapia from the US. For those less familiar with tilapia, it is a mild flavoured white fish and a nice alternative to snapper and rockfish. Tilapia is one of the most important farm-raised fish in the world and is ideally suited for aquaculture. It is fast-growing and does not require large amounts of animal protein to grow.

Steamed tilapia with ginger scallion sauce makes a great dish to unite family and friends.

Steamed tilapia with ginger scallion sauce makes a great dish to unite family and friends

If you are planning to have seafood for the Lunar New Year, here are our Top Eight Ocean Wise options:

  1. Dungeness Crab, trap-caught (BC, Alaska, Oregon, Washington)
  2. Abalone, off-bottom cultured (Canada, US)
  3. Scallops, off-bottom cultured (Worldwide)
  4. Clams, hand-harvested farmed (Worldwide)
  5. Tilapia, closed containment (US, BC)
  6. Black Cod/Sablefish, bottom longline (BC)
  7. Geoduck, diver-caught (West Coast North America)
  8. Sea Urchin, diver-caught (Canada)

Happy Lunar New Year and May There Be Fish Every Year!

Blog post by Tania Leon, Ocean Wise Coordinator.

Overfishing is the single biggest threat our oceans face today. With more than 650 partners across Canada, Ocean Wise makes it easy for consumers to make sustainable seafood choices that ensure the health of our oceans for generations to come. The Ocean Wise symbol next to a seafood item is the Vancouver Aquarium’s assurance of an ocean-friendly seafood choice. www.oceanwise.ca

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