It may be humanity’s most important food, after cereals, furnishing about 15 percent of the world population’s protein intake.
Over one billion people rely on seafood as their primary source of animal protein.
Most nontoxic aquatic species are exploited for food by humans. Even those with toxic properties, such as certain blowfish, can be prepared so as to circumvent harm to the consumer.
Edible sea plants such as some seaweeds and microalgae are widely eaten as sea vegetables around the world, especially in Asia.
Because seafood spoils quickly and is thus highly perishable, for most of history the majority of the catch has been dried, smoked, salted, pickled, or fermented when not eaten fresh.
Fish are cooked whole or cut into steaks, fillets, or chunks. Crustaceans are usually cooked whole, alive, as are most mollusks. Larger, tougher mollusks are ground or sliced and pounded to tenderize the tough flesh.
Ceviche is a Latin American recipe for raw seafood marinated in citrus juice, mainly lime and lemon. The acidity in the citrus juice breaks down the protein in the fish and replicates the process of heat being applied to the meat. This means this meat is “cooked”, even though there is no heat involved (aka all the harmful bacteria is killed).
In Japan, sushi has traditionally been considered a delicacy. Sushi is made of vinegared rice, usually with some sugar and salt, accompanying a variety of ingredients, such as seafood, vegetables, and occasionally tropical fruits. It is often served with pickled ginger (gari), wasabi, and soy sauce. The original type of sushi, nare-zushi, was first developed in Southeast Asia and then spread to southern China before its introduction to Japan sometime around the 8th century AD.
Fish and chips is a hot dish consisting of fried fish in batter served with chips. The dish originated in England and is an example of culinary fusion of its two main ingredients, each brought by immigrants. It is a staple meal and a common take-away food in the United Kingdom, Ireland, and numerous other countries. Fish and chips first appeared in the UK in the 1860s.
In the United States, although not generally in the United Kingdom, the term “seafood” is extended to fresh water organisms eaten by humans, so all edible aquatic life may be referred to as “seafood”.
The harvesting of wild seafood is usually known as fishing or hunting, while the cultivation and farming of seafood is known as aquaculture or fish farming (in the case of fish).
The harvesting, processing, and consuming of seafoods are ancient practices.
Findings in a sea cave at Pinnacle Point in South Africa indicate Homo sapiens (modern humans) harvested marine life as early as 165,000 years ago.
Early examples of permanent settlements, such as those at Lepenski Vir, were almost always associated with fishing as a major source of food.
The ancient River Nile was full of fish; fresh and dried fish were a staple food for much of the population. The Egyptians had implements and methods for fishing and these are illustrated in tomb scenes [photo below], drawings, and papyrus documents.
Fishing scenes are rarely represented in ancient Greek culture, a reflection of the low social status of fishing.
Pictorial evidence of Roman fishing comes from mosaics. At a certain time the goatfish was considered the epitome of luxury, above all because its scales exhibit a bright red color when it dies out of water. For this reason these fish were occasionally allowed to die slowly at the table.
In medieval times, seafood was less prestigious than other animal meats, and often seen as merely an alternative to meat on fast days. Still, seafood was the mainstay of many coastal populations.
The most widely served seafood in the US is shrimp. Shrimps are used in a variety of dishes and can be baked, boiled, fried, and grilled on a barbecue. Some popular shrimp dishes include gumbo, prawn cocktail, and shrimp creole. Salmon and tuna are tied as the second most popular seafood consumed by Americans. These two types of fish have long been favorite ingredients for uncomplicated meals such as sandwiches and salads.
The UK Food Standards Agency recommends that at least two portions of seafood should be consumed each week, one of which should be oil-rich. There are over 100 different types of seafood available around the coast of the UK.
The seafood with the highest price is a bluefin tuna. The most expensive bluefin tuna sold at an auction is sold at a price of 333,600,000 Yen ($3,082,610) to Sushizanmai of Kiyomura Corporation (Japan) at the annual first fish auction of the year at Toyosu Market in Koto, Tokyo, Japan, on 5 January 2019. It was caught in Oma, Aomori, Japan, and it weighed 278 kg (612 lb 14.24 oz).
Selling at $2,000 per pound (0.45 kg), baby eels are one of the most expensive seafood in the world. This whopping price is due to the fact that the adult species is considered endangered in many countries.
Lobster is generally known as one of the priciest seafood choices on the market and Scottish lobster is particularly rare. It can be purchased in Edinburgh, at one of the many fresh seafood markets and the lobster requires a delicate seasoning so as to not overpower the meat’s subtle flavour. 1 kg (2.2 pounds) of this delicacy costs approximately $40.