A Hilton Hawaiian Village menu, circa 1965 via New York Public Library

What can old menus tell us about changing ocean health?

An interesting premise: using 20th century restaurant menus to examine fisheries.

Hawaii Independent Staff

Duke University’s Kyle Van Houtan examined 376 restaurant menus from Hawaii circa 1928 to 1974 to look at the prevalaence of oceanic species in that period.

Prior to 1940, the researchers report in the journal Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, reef fish, jacks and bottom fish commonly turned up on menus. These include pink snapper, green snapper and amberjack. But that quickly changed after Hawaii received its statehood in 1959. By then, those once popular fishes appeared on fewer than 10 percent of menus. Some, such as Hawaiian flounder, Hawaiian grouper and Hawaiian barracuda disappeared from menus completely after 1960. In their place, large-bodied pelagic species, or those that live in deep open water such as tuna and swordfish, began to turn up served with a wedge of lemon. By 1970, these large pelagic fishes were on nearly every menu the team examined.

(via Annie Koh)

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