Whilst in Costa Rica I heard a lot from the marine biologists about a website called Seafood Watch (http://www.seafoodwatch.org/). It was recommended as a place where fish eaters could go to search for a restaurant in their home city which serves up fish that has been caught using sustainable fishing methods. I don't eat fish but I thought it would be a good link to send to my family and friends, so once I got home I looked at the site and was pretty disappointed.
Ok, I hadn't expected much, it's run by an aquarium and I have very mixed feelings about these places. I hate seeing animals kept in captivity, but at the same time, the thing that convinced my partner to stop eating fish was going to an aquarium, seeing how wonderful the animals are, and then asking herself, 'But if I love them, why am I eating them?'
But that could be my bias as a vegan, perhaps many aquariums are great centres of conservation, I don't know enough to lambast them all and I accept that. So back to the Seafood Watch website. I searched for restaurants in my home city of Toronto and found 4 entries. One for the zoo, another for a market and 2 for a chain restaurant called Red Lobster. Which was kind of like recommending somebody to go to Denny's or some family junk food joint. So in effect, although the website looked good and had the potential to be very useful, it was a relatively empty shell. I searched for other cities, the results outside of the US west coast, where the aquarium is based, were similar.
In the old days I'd have just written the website off as yet another failed omni venture. But where would that have gotten me, and the fish? Nowhere useful. So I saw this as an opportunity, wrote to the aquarium/website, and asked for their criteria so that I could reach out to restaurants in Toronto and at least make their website useful.
I got this reply;
"Any restaurant can become a Seafood Watch partner as long as they are willing to phase out any red rated seafood products. All of our recommendations are publicly available online or on our free app. To use our recommendations, you’ll need to know three things:
1. What species is it?
2. What country if it from?
3. How was it caught or farmed?
With those three key data elements, you can use Seafood Watch recommendations to figure out the respective rating.
Please feel free to direct any restaurants interested in partnership to www.seafoodwatch.org. They can click on the “Businesses & Organizations” tab to fill out a short inquiry form and someone from our business team will get in touch to explain the partnership, answer questions and identify next steps.
If you are interested in learning more about partnerships with Seafood Watch, we have this six minute online module: http://www.seafoodwatch.org/businesses-and-organizations/become-a-partner
Finally, Vancouver Aquarium has a similar seafood product called Ocean Wise, which relies on our recommendations. They also have a restaurant program and would likely have more Canadian restaurant partners, but keep in mind that I believe their restaurant partners are only required to highlight which seafood items on their menu are sustainable."
I have no idea if there is a cost to become a Seafood Watch partner, perhaps it's like the Organic movement. Many farmers now practice to Organic standards but just can't afford membership of the movement so they can't say their produce is organic, even though it is. And for sure, by the look of the website...
...yes, that's right, a dude kissing a dead fish, well, you can't expect that much, (although their promo film is really nice and says some encouraging things). But at least it's a start, and it's something positive, and perhaps more people will become aware of the importance of eating sustainably as a result.
I hope you will check out the Seafood Watch website and if you find the entries to your own town or city lacking, that you do something about it. I intend to send out news of this to all restaurants I can find in Toronto who it might apply to, and then encourage them to do the rest and become a partner.
And if by chance you eat fish, make an effort to find out where you can buy sustainably caught seafood that's been locally fished, if possible. It'll no doubt cost you a bit more than the fish that's not caught that way. I feel your pain. I have the same issue when I reach for the pineapples and the ones grown unsustainably are $2 and the organic ones are $3.50. I'm earning not much more than minimum wage, I can't afford it, my wallet screams! But I have to. You have to. We have to be better. We, the ones who care, have got to care more, to do more.