It used to be that restaurants (and customers) didn’t care much about where the fish that went into their Friday fries came from; as long as the fish was tasty and the customers kept buying it, all was beer-battered and well. But one of the things that’s apparent in our latest swing through Madison-area eateries is that the issue of sustainability is becoming more prominent. Whether it’s local taverns like Dexter’s choosing to pay a little more for cod that’s been caught in waters where fish populations are regulated, or sustainable fish options like pollock and walleye showing up as alternatives to less-sustainable fry standbys like perch and Atlantic cod, it’s clear this is an issue that’s going to continue to gain steam. Meanwhile, there are reasons for Wisconsinites to feel good: Urban aquaculture operations are taking root in the Badger state, providing a renewable source of key fry staples like yellow perch.
Aaron R. Conklin is a Madison-based freelance writer and a science communicator at the UW Aquatic Sciences Center.