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Delving into Sustainable Seafood

Sustainable seafood is all the rage these days, but how can the average person make smart seafood choices on a day-to-day basis?

This topic was discussed during an event hosted by Sustainable Seafood L.A. (CMA is a member of this group) and Loyola Marymount University’s (LMU) Center for Urban Resilience. The evening kicked off with a seafood tasting featuring sustainable fish and oysters prepared by Whole Foods Market, Border Grill, Santa Monica Seafood and several other food establishments.

“It was a great opportunity for participants to taste sustainable seafood dishes and show them that sustainable and mouth-watering do go hand-in-hand,” said CMA Director Mike Schaadt. “The wide variety of fish and oyster dishes also showed participants that sustainable seafood is available, it’s just a matter of understanding what to buy and where to find it.”

After dining, introductory remarks by Dr. Eric Strauss, Executive Director of LMU’s Center for Urban Resilience, set the tone for the evening’s seafood discussion: “We’re going to hear from experts who can help us reframe the conversation and think about our activities as consumers and stewards because what we choose to consume and put in our mouths drives market decisions.”

The U.S. is the second largest consumer of seafood in the world, second only to China. This status places Americans in the position to drive change through their choices and demands. Los Angeles City Councilman Mike Bonin reminded the audience that thirty years ago no one thought it would be possible to walk into a grocery store and buy free-range chicken eggs and organic fruits and vegetables, but now it’s common place because shoppers demanded it.

“One of the best ways to start becoming an informed consumer and drive change within the seafood industry is by participating in Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program,” said Schaadt. “Their Seafood Watch cards and apps provide ratings on the best fish to buy or avoid based on evaluations made by a team of scientists examining fishing and aquaculture practices throughout the world.”

Ninety percent of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, which makes knowing how a fish is caught or raised crucial to effectively influencing changes within the global fishing industry to prevent overfishing. This concept was discussed further during a panel discussion featuring:

Paula Daniels (moderator) - Founder, Los Angeles Food Policy Council
Tim Aupperle - Regional Seafood Coordinator, Whole Foods Market
Sheila Bowman - Manager of Culinary and Strategic Initiatives, Seafood Watch
Mark Helvey - Program Lead, NOAA Fisheries West Coast Region     
Mary Sue Milliken - “Top Chef Masters” & Co-Chef/Owner, Border Grill

Overall, panelists agreed that fishing is well-regulated in the U.S., but since U.S.-caught fish are such a small part of the market, consumers have to stay on their toes. Be sure to follow guidelines defined by Seafood Watch, Blue Ocean Institute or the Marine Stewardship Council. In addition, panelists urged the audience to ask questions and be willing to try something new. By asking questions, store owners and restaurants know you care. And by trying something new on the “best choices” list, you’re reducing pressure on popular and most likely overfished species.

The main take away from the talk was that when it comes to eating sustainable seafood it’s best to be informed, prepared to ask questions and daring in your smart choices. If we all start doing these things, sustainable fish will eventually be as common as free range eggs, fishing practices will change and fish stocks will stay healthy for future generations. As consumers, it’s possible to make a difference one fish at a time.

The next time you visit the Aquarium, stop by the Information Booth and pick up a Seafood Watch card or download the Seafood Watch app by clicking here.


Post Date: Wednesday, March 12, 2014

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