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Researcher Arne Duinker believes that we need to be eating a wider range of ingredients from our seas and oceans. Photo © Erlend A. Lorentzen/Havforskningsinstituttet
Earlier this year, a group of marine scientists took over the Lysverket restaurant in Bergen. Working with expert chefs, the scientists from the Institute of Marine Research (IMR) served up a mouth-watering menu of unusual fish and sea creatures.
This included sea cucumbers, bivalves, capelin from research catches, and warrior shrimps.
Researcher Arne Duinker, who organized the event, believes that we need to be eating a wider range of ingredients from our seas and oceans.
“We wanted to show the people of Bergen that there are already plenty of new, sustainable food types out there.”
Dr. Arne Duinker often takes student teachers and their primary school classes on foraging trips along the coastline.
Norway’s underwater forests
According to Duinker, one of the most interesting and overlooked ingredients along our shorelines is seaweed.
He explains that seaweed, and other species lower down in the food chain, could play a major role in supplying the world’s population with important vitamins and minerals.
This is because the lower down in the food chain you go, the more biomass is available to harvest.
Norway’s coastlines are rich in aquatic plants, including large stretches of waving kelp forests, and in future our coasts could be home to a thriving seaweed farming industry.
“Out of all European countries, Norway is particularly well-placed to produce a much greater amount of seaweed,” Duinker notes. “This is both due to our long coastlines, and our prior experience with aquaculture.”
And it isn’t just plants that are showing potential. A whole range of creatures, including mussels, oysters and sea urchins, all deserve a bigger place in our diet.
The IMR is working with top chefs to change the food culture in Norway. Photo © Erlend A. Lorentzen/Havforskningsinstituttet.
Changing hearts and minds
The big challenge, of course, is in changing the country’s attitudes to seafood.
Duinker admits that it isn’t easy to get people to swap their beef steak for a seaweed salad.
In order to overcome this, he and other researchers at the IMR are working with top chefs in order to change the food culture in Norway.
“Chefs are great at introducing new food to people. If we can get these species onto menus in restaurants, then diners will become more familiar with them.”
Working with the next generation is also important, and the researcher often takes student teachers and their primary school classes on foraging trips along the coastline.
“When I fry up some kelp crisps, almost everybody thinks they are very tasty. People are also positively surprised by the taste of cooked sea snail.”
Duinker believes that Norway’s inhabitants are gradually getting used to trying new morsels from the sea.
However, there’s still work to be done around developing a supply chain for these products, as well as packaging them up in new ways.
If we achieve this, we would be taking a big step towards sustainable food production around the world.
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