Chef Anthony McNamara loves fly fishing ,his new Island home of Waiheke and our humble Kahawai.
As an act of great generosity Ant and Jen (super talented baker wife) put on a private supper based around the Kai Moana (sea food) our guests from California had caught and Ant had foraged from the shores nearby. The Name “Kahawai” tells us they are Kaha (Strong ) and Wai (water) then these “strong in the water” fish deserve greater respect than low value export or unwanted by catch. Saltwater fly fishers value them highly as they are aggressive on the strike, jump, fight hard, and can be seen on the surface. Switched on chefs recognise them as delicious, oily, and firm fleshed, whats more by catching them and eating them we are doing our bit to encourage returning the stock to “abundance levels”. Our ability to take this precious “Kai Moana” to share with our friends ,family and guests says much about us as people.
Conservation and utilisation can be partners, we want more fish in the water! Thankfully with a change of Government and attitude to our fisheries we will see a shift in management that favours leaving more fish in the water rather than exporting them for low value return.
Ant and Jen devised a menu then presented Kahawai as a true hero, enhanced further by the earlier act of catching these fish with our friends from California. The ability to capture wild food and share with guests from afar is intrinsic to the Maori concept of Manakitanga and is said to bestow respect upon our guests and at the same time enhancing our relationship with our environment.
The evening kicked off with an entree of blended lightly tea leaf smoked Kahawai , raw fish Rarotongan “ikimata”style then baked with crispy skin followed by an amazing dessert.
Anthony and I have teamed up on several occasions when invited to talk about how we are playing our part to re -value this fish. Anthony continues to champion its eating qualities while I take international traveling fly fishers around the Waiheke coast to catch them on fly rods, the fact I rate him highly as a fly fishing buddy makes this most important work tremendous fun. I can only thank Ant and Jen for this great night , Jay Murakoshi and friends for traveling form California, and of course Tangaroa who resides in the the realm of the oceans for providing us this treat and returning us safely home.
The current return of Kahawai to our waters is very much the result of the Kahawai legal challenge in the 1990’s from that private and costly legal victory against our own government “Legasea” has evolved, the outcome of that effort changed the status of the estimated fish stock to not be fished down below 50% of the original biomass, unfortunately there are efforts to muck with this understanding and have the peoples fish proportionally distributed between customary, recreational and commercial interests. Its a complex area but in simple terms the fish do not belong to governments or corporations and good fisheries management would see all stocks fished to similar thresholds.More fish in the sea benefits everyone!
Legasea invited Anthony and I to tell our story of “fishing and eating” as an item during a significant fisheries symposium. Among an incredible list of selected scientists and political activists, Iwi and fishers our small story presented a case that careful utilisation valued them as significant earners in comparison to the export alternative.
Legasea, its sponsors and supporters continue to call for balanced and reasonable advocacy and research towards the goal of restoring abundance.
A new Fisheries Minister as part of the Jacinda Arden led Government is welcome news and we look forward to seeing more of these great fish in our waters.
We will do our part by continuing to catch, eat and respect this champion of fish!