Supreme Court: No Friend of Fish

James here, muscling in on Tiffany’s nicely reconsecrated blog. I confess that we at The Fish Society do not spend a lot of time following the decisions of The Supreme Court of the United States. Still less, do we feel qualified to criticise them. But this one leaves us very upset. Do you  mind if I air my views?

Back in 2007, a government inspector carried out a routine inspection on the Miss Katie, a Florida fishing vessel. He found 72 fish that were smaller than the legal limit. The fish were Red Grouper, a massively overfished species. He put the fish together in one box and told the skipper – one John Yates – to hand them over when he got back to port.

Instead, Mr Yates threw the fish overboard and replaced them with larger fish. Much later, he was convicted of disposing of the evidence and sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Mr Yates hit back by saying the law under which he had been convicted did not apply to fishermen.  He said it was designed to penalise big companies that shredded documents to frustrate legal investigations. This law, which was introduced after the Enron scandal, is called the Sarbanes Oxley Act. It outlaws the destruction of ‘any record, document or tangible object’ in an attempt to avoid prosecution.

This argument eventually got to The Supreme Court, which last week came out with a narrowly split judgement. Five of the judges decided that fish was not a physical object within the meaning of the Sarbanes Oxley Act. Recognising the potential accusation of perversity, their spokesman Justice Ginsberg said ‘Congress did not intend the Sarbanes Oxley Act to punish rogue fisherman’. Four judges disagreed. Mr Yates won.

The 46 page judgement is here, and if you’re entertained by angels dancing on pinheads, it’s a good read, featuring Dr Seuss, a colonial farmhouse and hefty doses of disparagement bordering on bile as the two lead judges – Ginsburg and Kagan – lay into each others’ opinions. Surely these two do not smile at each other in private.

Exquisite learning and subtle wisdom ooze out of every sentence in the two opinions. Equally clearly, the law is an ass. No-one denies that John Yates did wrong. He should not have got off. Catching undersized fish is a very bad thing. It seems to us that the main theme in the majority opinion was ‘overcriminalisation’. Sarbanes Oxley allows a maximum 20 year sentence for destroying evidence. Justice Ginsberg seems to think that a law capable of resulting in a 20 year sentence should not be used for getting rid of a few fish. But no-one ever suggested a 20 year sentence. In our view, overfishing has been overlooked for far too long. Like for about 100 years. If John Yates had been given the 21 months which the prosecutor originally sought – and others were dealt with in the same way – there would be a few more fish in the sea.

You can read more on this here. OK, rant over. Tiffany will resume normal service imminently.

A Tasty Afternoon..

 Yesterday afternoon we had a little tasting session at Fish Palace to try a few new products we’ve had delivered this week. It’s such a hard job…

Firstly we popped a few gurnard fillets in the air-fryer, a clever little device that fries in a much healthier way. Although gurnard aren’t exactly a gourmet species, we think they make an excellent substitute for cod or haddock with chips, and they are much more sustainable according to the Marine Conservation Society.

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 Next we had the most exciting product – our peeled wholetail scampi is back in stock after our loyal customers cleaned us out over Christmas! These aren’t your standard ‘chippy’ scampi, which are often made of chopped up pieces mixed in with other mysterious substances. These are proper chunks of authentic scampi, which we pan-fried to create a deliciously oozing afternoon snack.

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Lastly, we tried a rather distinctive treat: herring roe and melts. The roe obviously originates in the female herring, but the melts have a surprising source. They are in fact the sperm of the male herring! Sounds intriguing, but they were really rather deliciously creamy, and an excellent source of Vitamin D.

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Have you tried any of these before? Any recipe suggestions?

Farewell to James!

We’ve had some sad news this week at Fish Palace, as James our packing assistant has handed in his notice! He says he’s really enjoyed his time with us, but he’s currently studying with the Open University for a degree in Computer Science, and an extra module has popped up which will need lots of attention.

Although ‘packing assistant’ may not seem like everyone’s dream career (rather cold and pungent), James relished the chance to move away from customer service to a more serious, skilled and hands-on role, something he didn’t enjoy in his old job at an opticians. He now hopes to finish his degree and embark on a career in software or web development. Good luck James, you’ve been great!

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Holy Abalone!

 Have you ever wondered where mother-of-pearl is found? It’s in the shell of the humble abalone, a large, edible sea snail. These shells have been used as decorative items in jewellery, buttons, buckles and inlay for thousands of years; they have been found in archaeological sites around the world from a 75,000 year old cave in South Africa to historic Chinese abalone middens in California’s Northern Channel Isles. IMG_4140

For those unperturbed by trinkets, they fortunately also make a delicious meal! The meaty ‘foot’ of the abalone has a similar texture to calamari – I sliced mine up and pan-fried it with garlic, chilli, lemon and salt. Sadly, abalone numbers are struggling around the world and need protecting, so fishermen are given a limited number of little blue tags to attach to their catch to ensure they don’t sell more than their quota. Mother-of-pearl_internal-beads_hgYou can buy these shimmering little treats on our website, where we sell wild abalone from Brittany. Afterwards, you can turn the shell into an incense holder!

Tantalising Turbot

What an absolute corker of a turbot we’ve received this week! Weighing in at 23 lbs, it’s creeping towards the record we found in 1964’s Where to Fish by H. F. Wallis, when the Tolchard family caught one in Dartmouth at 28 lb!

Our gentle giant was caught in Cornwall and our head chef Marc is filleting him as we speak – best hurry as these steaks will disappear fast! Our wild turbot fillet steaks can be found here and are widely praised for their thick, boneless texture. You can find a delicious recipe for Roasted Turbot with Porcini and Red Wine here – a real feast!

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King Crabs & Oysters Rockefeller

We pride ourselves on the quality of our products at Fish Palace, but this week we’ve been processing some truly luxurious dishes… These peeled king crab claws (paralithodes camtschaticus) are seriously meaty and full of flavour, and used to be given to risky casino players just before a big roll, to thank them in advance for leaving behind so much cash! I remember the first time I ate crab from the shell; I was at Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s River Cottage Canteen in Axminster, and the waitress forgot to bring me a crab-cracker. I sat quietly for about 10 minutes, unsure how one was supposed to access the tempting pink within. Fortunately the waitress returned, fetched the cracker and explained!

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Meanwhile, our head chef Marc has also been rustling up a fantastic batch of Oysters Rockefeller in our kitchen, which you can buy here and simply pop in the oven for 12 minutes. This remarkable dish was created in New Orleans and named after the richest man in America at the time, John D. Rockefeller, due to the richness of the sauce. To make it, Marc whizzes spinach, parsley, onion and tabasco sauce in the blender, and then adds a slosh of Pernod; the traditional recipe uses Herbsaint, but we find Pernod a delicious alternative!

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These are both wonderful treats for a slightly extraordinary supper – why not give them a go?

All you need is Love & Caviar

Wit ought to be a glorious treat like caviar; never spread it about like marmalade.
Noel Coward

Caviar has long been the delicacy of choice for exuberant occasions; who wouldn’t savour these salted pearls from the dark depths of the ocean? The name originates from the Turkish khavyar, but the sturdy sturgeon has been part of man’s diet for 250 million years. Once reserved strictly for royalty, it found a place in American saloons in the 19th century, where it was served to encourage beer sales with its salty flavour!

For those looking for something a little more original this Valentine’s Day, forget the oysters, chocolates and heart-shaped pizza. We’ve got seven luxurious varieties of exquisite caviar in stock at Fish Palace, including our fresh No.1 Baerii from Siberian sturgeon which is on offer for a sparkling £31.90 (usually £39.90). Most caviar companies give their products names like Imperial or Tsar’s Own. We don’t believe in dressing up something that is already magnificent, so ours are simply labelled with numbers, just like Chanel…

If you’re trying to seduce someone special this February, why not try whipping up a batch of chive blinis with caviar and soured cream? Or if you’re feeling particularly adventurous, this recipe for crab ravioli with mussels and potato mariniere, spinach and caviar is sure to impress. Not one for cooking? Nothing beats candlelit caviar from the jar – we’ve even got traditional white shell spoons to enhance the taste.

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