Eat your small fish

"We tend to overlook the nutritional and economical value of smaller fish species."

“Opting for local food significantly enhances the quality of our diet. Our dedicated local farmers and fishermen exert great effort to supply us with great produce. Despite this, our meals often lack the inclusion of fish, a nutrient-rich choice that significantly benefits our health,” says Parliamentary Secretary Alicia Bugeja Said.

At the ‘Investing in our Health’ seminar, organised by the Parliamentary Secretariat for Fisheries, Aquaculture, and Animal Rights at Dar Kenn Għal Saħħtek in Mtarfa, the Parliamentary Secretary pointed out a common oversight in our dietary choices. While we tend to opt for larger, more expensive fish, we overlook the nutritional and economical value of smaller fish species.

“It’s crucial to deepen our understanding of fish’s health benefits, which encourages us to incorporate more of the freshly caught fish by our local fishermen into our diets. It’s a misconception that all fish come with a hefty price tag. Smaller fish varieties, such as the bogue (vopa), are not only cost-effective but also come prepared and ready for cooking,” added Alicia Bugeja Said.

Moreover, she noted the paradox in our approach to dieting for weight loss or maintaining physique, where fish consumption is often minimal. This practice deprives us of essential nutrients vital for the well-being of both body and mind, nutrients abundantly available in small fish.

Alicia Bugeja Said, Parliamentary Secretary for Fisheries, Aquaculture and Animal Rights

Calling them out by name

Whilst it’s true that our Mediterranean Sea offers a rich diversity of marine life, including several small fish species that are popular in Maltese cuisine, not many of us can name these small creatures off the bat.

Here are some small fish you can ask for during your next trip to the fish shop.

  • Bogue (vopi)
  • Bullet tuna (tumbrell)
  • Mackerel (kavall)
  • Atlantic bonito (plamtu)
  • Ray (raj)
  • Piked dogfish (mazzola)
  • Parrotfish (Marżpan)

Fishing for Recipes

Meanwhile, the second edition of the ‘Fishing for Recipes’ competition was launched late in February, aiming to reward innovative recipes created by students aged between 9 and 15 years old that incorporate local fish into their dishes.

This initiative also aims to promote the creative cooking of typical Maltese fish and sustainable consumption among Maltese and Gozitan families.

For this competition, a jury will select 10 finalists who will be announced on a specially created social media page, where photos of the recipes and the ingredients used will also be displayed.

The 10 finalists chosen in this competition will be invited to prepare their recipes at the AgriFair on 13th April, where they will also have the opportunity to interact with national chefs who will be present during the evening.

Why your family should be eating fish

Firstly, for your health. Local fish are fresher than imported ones, retaining more of their nutritional value. Fish are a rich source of omega-3 fatty acids, high-quality protein, vitamins (like D and B2), and minerals (including calcium, phosphorus, iron, zinc, iodine, magnesium, and potassium). These nutrients are vital for heart health, brain function, and overall well-being.

Secondly, choosing local fish helps reduce the carbon footprint associated with transporting seafood over long distances.

Thirdly, purchasing local fish directly supports local fishermen and their communities, contributing to the local economy. It helps maintain fishing as a viable livelihood and sustains the local seafood industry.

Then, there’s an element of food security. Depending on locally sourced fish can enhance food security by reducing reliance on imported goods. This is particularly important in times of global supply chain disruptions.

Holistic therapist Joyce Muscat shares her expertise in herbs with participants in the seminar.

Yet another plus is the fact that consuming local fish fosters a connection to regional culinary traditions and promotes the passing of these traditions from one generation to the next. It helps families maintain a sense of identity and pride in their local heritage.

Lastly, when buying local fish, you know the source. Buying local allows families to know where their fish comes from, how it was caught, and whether sustainable practices were used. This transparency is often lacking with imported seafood.

Now, when it comes to the small fish in particular, introducing a larger variety of local fish to family meals can encourage healthier eating habits. It provides an opportunity to explore different flavors and recipes, making meals more interesting and nutritious.

In the off chance that this article has kick-started your fishy appetite, bon appétit!

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