Can’t eat out? Pick up some local seafood! Shelly Krueger, University of Florida IFAS/Extension, Monroe County
Seafood is very easy to prepare at home. In fact, you can make a delicious and healthy main course with just three ingredients – local seafood, garlic and butter. Pick up some local stone crab claws, spiny lobster, shrimp, or fish then sauté or grill with the garlic and butter, and dinner is served! US seafood from your local fish house or fish market is highly regulated for safety and sustainability. As a matter of fact, if you have eaten grouper, pompano, mullet, stone crab, pink shrimp, spiny lobster, or Spanish mackerel anywhere in the US, there is an 84% chance it is harvested fresh from Florida! There are also numerous health benefits to eating seafood. It is a great source of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as zinc and selenium, which help support your immune system.
Did you know that seafood is considered an agricultural product? As such, commercial fishermen are part of our essential critical infrastructure workforce and, per the Governor’s executive order, necessary to produce our food supply domestically. In Florida, commercial fishing is an important cultural heritage and fishers make up a large part of many of our communities. In the southernmost city of Key West, it is not uncommon for a Key West Conch to be a third or even fourth generation fisher. Monroe County has the highest commercial landings of any county with dockside values of over $56 million and more than 4,500 people employed. Economists at the University of Florida calculate the economic contribution of commercial fishing nets more than $900 million to the Florida Keys economy every year. These models consider the number of jobs created, dockside sales, and the income generated by seafood sales from wholesalers to retailers, which includes restaurants and grocery stores. This is second only to tourism. Diversity in our local economy is very important and so is the catching of domestic seafood for food security. The success of commercial fishing is also tied to tourism, since up to 90 percent of the local finfish and stone crab catch would normally be sold to restaurants in South Florida.
Many towns in Florida are supported by commercial fishing and delicious seafood. Many of them celebrate these traditions with annual seafood festivals. Even before the “local food” movement was popular the UF/IFAS Monroe County Extension recognized the need to support the local commercial fishing industry and helped create the annual Florida Keys Seafood Festival in Key West. But you do not have to wait for a seafood festival to eat local seafood! There are local fish houses and seafood retailers throughout Florida that are open for business and ready to serve you the best seafood in the world. By supporting your local fishermen and women, you support your local economy — and you get to enjoy a great meal fresh from Florida!
For more information, visit the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services Fresh From Florida with a list of seafood retailers, seafood festivals, nutrition information, and recipes at https://www.fdacs.gov/Consumer-Resources/Buy-Fresh-From-Florida/Seafood-Products