Sanibel Sea School Serves Up Mullet
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A group of ocean lovers spanning several generations gathered within the brightly colored walls of the Sanibel Sea School on Aug. 25 as part of a week dedicated to the study of mullet.
Beautiful murals of sea creatures adorned the walls and paper jellyfish dangled from the ceiling as kids and parents eagerly waited to watch a screening of the newest documentary in WGCU’s Sustainable Seafood series, Mullet: A Tale of Two Fish.
The school’s Co-Founder/Exec. Director J. Bruce Neill, Ph.D., better known as “Doc Bruce,” invited everyone to grab some mullet to eat while watching so they could better understand the purpose of the documentary.
Tempting treats included smoked mullet dip, mullet fritters with a dill aioli, and citrus poached mullet and goat cheese mousse on a cucumber round. The delicacies were made from fresh mullet that was caught that morning and prepared by Executive Chef Melissa Talmage of Sweet Melissa’s Café.
“Growing up in the southeastern United States, mullet was engrained in the culture,” said Doc Bruce, as viewers grabbed some mullet and took their seats. After briefly discussing the historical importance of the fish, Doc Bruce gave a nod to the 2,000 years of Calusa that pre-dated us Southwest Floridians, adding, “I suspect mullet were giant in their civilization.”
The film, which explores the history of mullet and fall of Florida's commercial mullet fishing industry, focuses on its importance as a food source as well as its potential as the “fish of the future.” The delicious and nutritious mullet’s reputation has been reduced to that of a “bait” or “trash” fish that isn’t worth eating. After scarfing down several of Sweet Melissa’s delectable mullet fritters, I couldn’t disagree more.
Post-screening, a panel of mullet experts led by Florida Sea Grant agent Joy Hazell discussed the film and answered audience questions, which led to a broader conversation about water quality. The focus turned to encouraging everyone to do their part to help preserve our beautiful Florida ecosystems.
Eating locally caught mullet and learning its story led to a clear consensus: we need to get mullet on more restaurant menus. As they say in Matlacha, “eat more mullet!”
Sanibel Sea School aims to improve the ocean’s future, one person at a time. This means creating a deep love and understanding of the ocean for both children and adults. The school is dedicated to educating others about marine ecosystems, promoting environmental values, and giving back to the community. You can learn more at www.sanibelseaschool.org.
Sweet Melissa’s Café (currently celebrating 7 years on Sanibel) has received numerous awards and rave reviews from Southwest Florida publications, including being named “Best Dining in Lee County” by Gulf Shore Life. Executive Chef Melissa Talmage works with Sanibel Sea School to promote the use of sustainable seafood. You can visit Sweet Melissa’s Café online at www.sweetmelissascafe.com.
To find out more about mullet, why it matters, and how a healthy future global population may come to rely on this nutritious protein, visit our Sustainable Seafood page at www.wgcu.org/tv/sustainable-seafood.