Ahi Poke is no Joke-y

The Yellowfin Tuna (Thunnus albacares)
The Yellowfin Tuna (Thunnus albacares)

Summer is the greatest time of the year here in California for diving. The water gets warmer, visibility starts to open up, and surface intervals are spent sunning yourself on the deck, bagging Z’s instead of huddling under a parka trying to remember why you thought it was fun to dive in January. Another thing I love about summer is that as the ocean warms, we start to get some seasonal visitors to our local waters that you can really sink your teeth into. One of my favorites is yellowfin tuna.  These fast-swimmers show up in the late summer to our southern coast line from Mexico and supply local seafood mongers with some of the best fish you’ll ever eat. When it’s fresh, the crimson-red  steaks with their firm texture and great taste are unbeatable. No wonder some people will say grilling tuna is the best way to enjoy but I don’t believe that there is any better way to enjoy then as the good lord intended. It’s time to go raw.

Now for those of you that make sushi at home, you realize it’s kind of hassle. There are a lot of moving parts and other prep work plus the physical act of molding rice, fish, and seaweed together  so it doesn’t look like something my 16-month old daughter might have made in our yard. No, I’m thinking something much simpler and for that we look to out 50th state, Hawaii, and the delicacy they call Poke.

Now Poke is a pretty simple dish that you actually can find in a lot of different cultures in the south Pacific that are only differentiated by subtle variations in the basic recipe.  Its literal translation is the verb “cut” which besides a little mixing, is all your going to have to do to make this dish. I’m offering a California variation minus the limu(seaweed) and substituting avocado for logistical reasons as much as taste. That being said, I encourage you to do it however you want. The only thing I promise is that if you  have good fresh ingredients then you will find yourself enjoying a delicious taste of summer.

Here’s how you can do it:

3 cups tuna cubed (about 1 pound and leave it a little chunky)

1/2 cup red onion, sliced thinly

I large avocado cubed (optional for a California flair

1/4 cup green onion, chopped (greens parts only)

1 cup soy sauce

2 tablespoons sesame oil (careful with this. This will overpower everything if you use too much)

1/2 teaspoon sambal olek (garlic chili paste for a little bite)

Hawaiian salt to taste (Kosher salt will do. It’s the larger granular texture you’re looking for.)

1 teaspoon black pepper

Combine the last 5 ingredients in a bowl and let sit for 15 minutes. Add to the first 4 ingredients and gently mix so you don’t break up the tuna chunks and chill. Serve it with tortilla chips, just eat by itself, or serve it on a bed of lettuce as a salad. And as for making best choices when purchasing, Seafood Watch recommends both pole-and line or troll caught so ask the guys behind the fish counter.

Insert fork here
Insert fork here

When it Comes to Salmon, Don’t Buy the Farm

Sockeye Salmon heading home in Alaska

The idea behind CFD  has always been to give divers ways to enhance the dive experience and make it even more enjoyable,  if that’s even possible. We do that by talking about where to go eat, what to drink,  and what to make within the scope of our local waters. Sometimes, however, we need to look beyond our local waters to something most divers will never encounter in the wild…Salmon.

Now since we’ve done a great job at basically wiping out California’s salmon populations, at least from a commercial perspective, we need to look north to Alaska for the majority of our wild salmon needs. Seasonal king, pink, sockeye, and Chinook are all finding there way to your local fish monger as we type.

What’s that you say? You can get farmed Atlantic salmon at 1/3rd the price?  It has the same taste or texture doesn’t it? It’s aquaculture so it must be better for the environment right? Good questions one and all and worthy of discussion. so point by point:

1) Farmed salmon is cheaper than wild salmon. True enough. but you get what you pay for which leads us to our next point…


2) Farmed salmon isn’t as tasty as wild salmon. Think about it like this, the wild salmon you eat is a Darwinian wonder that has survived a long life cycle to become a viable candidate for reproduction. It’s what nature and natural selection meant it to be.  A farmed Atlantic salmon on the other hand, is incubated, vaccinated, and raised in a large holding pen on a diet of fish meal with a little additive to give it a healthy pink hue. When it hits 2 feet and 8-10 pounds, it’s taken for market. It’s literally chicken of the sea and it doesn’t compare in terms of richness of flavor next to the sockeye or king. which leads us to our final point…

Atlantic Salmon Pens

3) Salmon farming is not really good for the environment. To start with, it’s not a very clean industry. There are hundreds of farms raising hundreds of million of fish. That’s a lot of nitrogen being released into the water effecting water quality and local marine ecosystems on a lot of different levels. There is also the escapement issue.  A lot of farmed salmon escape. They intermix with local salmon where they have the potential to introduce new diseases while  disrupting feeding and spawning. The only place salmon farming makes sense in on the financial line. They are like plastic shopping bags in that regard. Sure it’s cheaper and more convenient to use them but they cost more in the long run because of the damage they end up doing to the environment .

Aquaculture has so much potential to create new food resources for our expanding global population. Shellfish farming is a very clean and safe source of seafood as are closed-containment fish farms which raise fish in tanks, away from wild populations. I wish I could say the same for farmed salmon, and maybe some day I will be able to as technology and techniques improve. As of today however, wild is not only your best tasting option, it’s also your most environmentally sound. So get out there and enjoy some salmon while it’s nice, fresh, and wild.

Wild Salmon is leaps and bounds above farmed salmon


Milton Love speaks bluefin tuna sushi in Los Angeles Magazine

I like bluefin tuna. I suppose it’s because I too am a speedy, muscular, and fast mover when I’m in the ocean. Unlike bluefin tuna however, I’m not that popular in sushi restaurants. Perhaps it’s my questionable hygiene or my uncontrollable urge to shout “Release the Kraken” at the most inappropriate times. Regardless of my shortcomings, we are now looking at a time where people are actually loving the bluefin tuna to death. With study after study coming out about the overall global reduction of bluefin populations by almost 95% of their historical numbers, we are on the verge of eating the lion of the ocean right into extinction by putting them squarely on our plate. UCSB Ecologist Milton Love, who will tell you more than you ever wanted to know about rockfish if you let him,  was recently interviewed for Los Angeles Magazine and explained why we might want to take these magnificent animals off the plate and leave them in the open ocean.

The Trouble with Bluefin Tuna article in Los Angeles Magazine

Painful Hiatus

A cat in a re-breather. And people think we have too much time on our hands.

We at California Fine Diving would like to apologize for our recent gap in posting and hope that you will continue to turn to us for all your California fine diving needs. Think of us as your divemaster who follows you ashore  but not in the creepy way. In the meantime, dive science marches on….