June to September is calico scallop season along the west coast of Florida. During our annual trek to Homosassa Springs, concern about Red Tide and oil contamination seemed to outweigh the nutritional benefits of harvesting wild scallops — a real privilege for us on the west coast of Florida.
The Florida Institute of Oceanography estimates that Florida seafood is a $50 billion industry, with 43 percent of the U.S. catch coming from the gulf coast (more than 205 million pounds in 2011).
But the United States remains the world's top importer of seafood. (Japan is No. 2.) Eighty-four percent of the finfish and 92 percent of the shrimp consumed here come from China, Thailand and Canada. Much of it is the product of aquaculture, making wild-caught seafood more difficult to find.
Just before we hit the water to search for scallops, a naturalist among us described how farmed Asian shrimp are produced. I reflected on the feeding regimens I observed at catfish, trout and eel farms while serving as Florida's seafood nutrition specialist. Farmed seafood is helpful in meeting animal protein requirements for a growing world population, but we need better husbandry rules to ensure a sustainable and healthy farmed product. Too many farmed species are fed corn and soy feed pellets that contain little or no fish meal. Grains produce a big fish or prawn without omega-3 fatty acids, a health-centric reason many people eat seafood.
Our trip yielded so few scallops that Key West shrimp had to be added to the accompanying Caribbean Shellfish Delight recipe. Scallops are a unique shellfish with the lowest fat and cholesterol of any seafood, yet high amounts of omega-3 fatty acids for brain and immune health, according to Dr. Joyce Nettleton's book Seafood and Health.
Betty Wedman-St Louis is a licensed nutritionist and environmental health specialist in Pinellas County who has written numerous books on health and nutrition. Visit her website at betty-wedman-stlouis.com.