Hooking the best and fairest fish

Last updated 05:00 12/01/2014

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To help you choose the tastiest, most sustainable and cheapest seafood, we've come up with a list of the best in each category.

With the world's fisheries under assault, caring consumers should pick sustainably caught fish. Thanks to the Royal Forest and Bird Society there are now even phone apps to make it easy. But factor in price and taste and it's harder coming up with the perfect choice.

If your conscience doesn't plague you and money's not an issue, then John Dory's is the tastiest fish according to Mike Rendle, whose new book How to Catch Fish and Where has become a bestseller.

"It's a beautiful fish. Get one of those and you don't need anything else," he says, adding that filleted, floured and pan-fried in butter was the way to go.

Forest and Bird gives John Dory a tick of approval, although it does have concerns about the bottom trawling used to get it.

Next on Rendle's taste test was tarakihi (and look, it's sustainable too) while filleted flounder, gurnard and South Island blue cod round out his top five.

Sunday Star-Times food writer Ray McVinnie loves fish, but thinks about wider issues. "It's not about the taste - it's the morals," he said.

McVinnie doesn't eat tuna because there isn't enough left in the world and he will not eat snapper over ethical concerns.

He loves the taste of hapuku but it's got a red cross next to it according to Forest and Bird.

To help iron out contradictions to come up with the ultimate seafood that is cheap, tasty and sustainable: green-lipped mussels.

"They are a marketing triumph," says McVinnie. "You don't have to do anything to these free-range, organic, live products."

He's also a fan of pilchards, which are cheap and are rated highly by Forest and Bird, though they're not to everyone's taste.

Similarly, not everything is totally clear-cut when it comes to sustainability. Forest and Bird, for example, is not happy about hoki - yet the international Marine Stewardship Council gives it a high sustainability rating.

It's the fish you eat when you don't want to taste fish, which is why McDonald's puts it in burgers.

Our sustainability No 3 is the "people's fish" - kahawai. It's mainly exported as pet food because it doesn't keep well but it tastes good and is easily caught by amateurs. Tarakihi and blue cod also fit the bill for ethical eaters.

When it comes to price, mussels at around $3.50 a kilo trump anything else. Albacore tuna is cheap but eating it is ethnically questionable. Gurnard and tarakihi are cheaper than many meats and sustainable.

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