According to my calendar, yesterday was Ocean Day in Japan. Why my calendar includes Japanese holidays, I don’t know. A little research reveals that there’s also a World Ocean Day and a mostly California Ocean Day (very cool photos of some aerial oceanside art here), both of which also happened already this year. But neither was in my calendar and so it is Japanese Ocean Day that inspires me this week.
And here’s what I’m inspired to say: sustainable seafood, sustainable seafood, sustainable seafood.
If you know what I’m talking about, if you’re already aware of the important work that people like Seafood Watch are doing, and if you already buy only sustainable seafood, stop reading this post, get yourself a lovely piece of sea bass (like mine, pictured here) or other sustainable seafood, and pat yourself on the back.
If, however, you don’t know about sustainable seafood and especially about Seafood Watch, let me tell you. A program from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, Seafood Watch was created to help consumers and businesses make choices for healthy oceans. For you and me, that mostly means choosing to eat seafood that’s fished or farmed in ways that don’t harm the environment and that, therefore, supports ecosystems that will exist long into the future.
I love the environment. I’m pro-ocean. But the biggest reason I’m a supporter of sustainable seafood is simply because I love fish. If I want to keep eating it, I have to help make sure that the environment that produces it is in good shape. And if you want to keep eating seafood, so do you.
I know of three great ways to make sure the seafood you’re eating – whether it’s store-bought or enjoyed in a restaurant – is sustainable.
One is to consult Seafood Watch. You can visit their web site and type in any fish you’re thinking about. They’ll tell you whether they give that fish a green, yellow, or red light, and why.
From that same page, you can also print one of their pocket guides, which makes it easy for you to carry their recommendations around with you.
You can even download their guide as an iPhone app, which means the info will always be up-to-date.
A second way to make sure your seafood is sustainable is to look for the Marine Stewardship Council label. Like Seafood Watch, the Marine Stewardship Council studies and evaluates the world’s seafood, although with slightly different criteria. Unlike Seafood Watch, they have a logo – a blue oval with a fish – that certified sources can use on their products. You’ll see MSC-labeled fishes at Whole Foods, for example. But note that just because one item at a store or in a restaurant is MSC-certified, it doesn’t mean all of them are.
A third way to make sure the seafood you’re eating is sustainable is to shop and dine at stores and restaurants that only sell sustainable seafood. This way, once you’re in the door, you can choose anything you want. How do you know a shop or restaurant sells only sustainable seafood? Ask. If they do, they’ll be proud to tell you all about their program. If they don’t, they’ll have met one more reason to consider one.
Here in Napa, I shop almost exclusively at Kanaloa Seafood. For almost any item in the store, they can tell me the exact person who caught it, when, where, and why it deserves to be on their 100% sustainable menu. I’m also proud to regularly teach classes at Ramekins Culinary School, possibly the country’s first cooking school that serves only Seafood Watch-sanctioned seafood.
Yes, being committed to sustainable seafood means that usually I pay more for my fish. But you know what? That’s the price of being awake and aware that there are consequences to my actions. And it’s a price I’m willing to pay so that I can keep eating great seafood.
Do I do everything I could possibly do to make the world a better place? No. But I do this. And if you’re interested in eating delicious seafood long into the future, I’m suggesting you do, too.
A belated happy Ocean Day. How will you celebrate?