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From a restaurant on the longest sea loch in Scotland, a diner can gaze out its windaes at the remnants of a 15th-century castle and the rolling hills of the Highlands . . .
whilst they’re served a meaty halibut head that chef Pam Brunton has grilled over wood and finished with melted homemade ‘nduja and a tangle of grilled green onions. This particular tiny restaurant and inn is about 70 miles from Glasgow, where in November President Joe Biden, thousands of diplomats, and many environmental activists like Greta Thunberg gathered for COP26, the United Nations global climate conference.
But what does cooking halibut have to do with curbing climate change?
It’s a move away from fin and shellfish whose populations are threatened by climate change or harvesting practices. It may not seem like much of a hedge against the catastrophic effects of fossil fuel and methane gas emissions, but putting sustainable Scottish seafood on the plate is at least one tangible (and delicious) move toward a better planet.
“It’s all part of an incremental change,” Burton said. She also participated in a panel on food waste, hosted by The New York Times Climate Hub, that coincided with COP26. She put a realistic spin on things by saying that she doesn’t think things, like they are doing, are going to make any change in a big way now. But by doing what we’re doing we are influencing the direction of things for the future, she confided. “We are changing the flow.”
Some of the appeal is the romance of food from Scotland’s west coast, where Scottish kings are buried and the first Celtic church in Scotland was built in about 563 A.D. It’s a really compelling place for people to be sourcing their food. It’s bringing you the stuff from your dreamland. But the health of the climate and the environment matter, too.
Seafood is Scotland’s largest food export. Almost 400,000 tons were landed in 2020. That doesn’t include wild salmon, which are no longer fished commercially anywhere in Britain. Scotland, however, is the third-largest producer of farmed Atlantic salmon. Langoustine, the slender, delicate relative of the lobster, is the most valuable catch; more than two-thirds of the world’s supply comes from Scottish waters.