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Sustainable Seafood Expo in San Pedro to educate and stimulate the taste buds

Ridgeback shrimp, baked black cod and tostadas with white sea bass prove that cooking with environmentally conscious seafood doesn’t have to be boring. Celebrity chefs will be among those on hand this weekend at the Sustainable Seafood Expo in San Pedro to show visitors how to get the most out of their fish while making sure they’re preparing and eating something that won’t harm the environment.

“You get that many chefs together and something good is going to come out of it,” said Dustin Trani, whose great-grandfather opened their family restaurant, J. Trani’s, in San Pedro in 1925.

Trani, who is also a chef at Doma of Beverly Hills, will be joined at the expo by fellow chefs Sam Choy, who specializes in Pacific Rim dishes, and Bernard Ibarra of Terranea Resort in Rancho Palos Verdes. 

Sponsored by the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium, the expo will be presented from 1-5 p.m. Sunday at Crafted at the Port of Los Angeles, 112 E. 22nd St., San Pedro. Tickets are $20 and available online or at the door. Among event co-sponsors are Whole Foods Market, the Port of Los Angeles and AltaSea, the marine research center planned for San Pedro’s waterfront.

“Seafood is an important part of a person’s diet. It’s a great source of protein, but there’s already pressure on fisheries for sustainability,” said Mike Schaadt, director of the aquarium.

That means finding a way to make sure fish populations aren’t depleted to the point of robbing future generations of such an important and healthy food source.

Schaadt said 80 percent or more of the world’s fishing areas are already fished “to capacity or overfished. Over 30 percent of the world’s fisheries are overfished.”

Trani, who was featured in the first season of “Knife Fight” and will be on a new Bravo show this January featuring the country’s best new restaurants, is teaming up with Tri Marine for his expo demonstrations that highlight the company’s new ultra low temperature (ULT) process that “super” freezes tuna to ensure high-quality fish.

The new flash-freezing processing techniques also keep restaurant seafood prices more stable, he said.

In expo chef demonstrations, Trani will make dishes with calamari and those white sea bass tostadas while Ibarra will create calamari ceviche, ridgeback shrimp and baked black cod.

Hawaiian chef Choy, who founded the Poke Festival and Recipe Contest in 1991, will make his famous poke raw salad with yellowfin and big-eye tuna.

Whole Foods Torrance and Redondo Beach will compete to see who makes the best fish tacos and scallop ceviche.

Rounding out the tasty samples will be wines and craft beers. But it’s not all about food.

The expo is primarily designed to stress the importance of protecting fish and their habitats to ensure the availability of healthy food sources.

Among federal efforts underway are the institution of annual catch limits, market-based management and international cooperation.

It’s an issue that’s complicated but is getting more attention, Schaadt said. Restaurants and markets — including Whole Foods and Safeway — increasingly are offering customers fish that has been certified as coming from sustainable sources.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium, which launched the sustainable seafood movement some 15 years ago, remains one of the leading voices as efforts continue.

The aquarium’s website lists some of the best seafood to buy — some locally caught bass, cod and halibut — and the seafoods to avoid, orange roughy and imported swordfish.

Special blue labels are being used on sustainable seafood sold at markets. 

But the topic remains unfamiliar to many consumers.

“We’ve been partners with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program and we felt as though this was another great idea for people to consider in helping the ocean be healthy,” Schaadt said of the expo.

According to the event flier, participants will “learn how the fish on your dish is caught or farmed, and how that impacts the marine environment and fish populations” while learning how to make “delicious dishes using seafood that’s good for the environment.”

“I think with something like this you always worry that people are going to walk in and get preached to,” Schaadt said.

And so the expo, which he hopes will become an annual event, will also appeal to foodies.

Those who attend Sunday’s event will “walk away with having tasted some of the best sustainable seafood around,” Schaadt said. “But they’ll also walk away knowing why (sustainability) matters and, to us, that’s something that’s very important at this point.”

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