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Working to Broaden the Sustainable Seafood Dialogue

Addressing Our Sustainable Seafood Partnerships and Adding More Seats to the Table

Katherine Miller

April 13, 2018

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There are oceans of issues when you talk about sustainable seafood. For the first several decades of this movement, the focus was on the long-term health and regenerative nature of fish stocks and the preservation of our global waterways, especially oceans. As the field has expanded, it now also considers the economic and social benefits necessary to support and preserve local fishing communities, and to end human trafficking. 

All of these factors go into the work as scientists, fishing communities, companies, and consumers figure out how to enjoy delicious and nutritious seafood options at a time when we’ve fished about 90 percent of the world’s seafood stocks to the point of extinction.

This problem isn’t going away. Globally, humans consumed 44 pounds of fish per person in 2013. In 2016, Americans ate nearly 15 pounds of seafood per person. All signals point to continued increases in consumption over the next decade.

Humans aren’t going to stop eating seafood. Nor should we. U.S. dietary guidelines say we should eat at least two servings of seafood a week to ensure the recommended levels of omega-3s and other nutrients. 

How we balance supply and demand is one of the key questions JBF is attempting to address with our seafood initiatives, including Smart Catch and our Sustainable Seafood Partnership. By working with hundreds of chefs around the country on Smart Catch, we’re able to identify major stumbling blocks for sourcing sustainably, including what to source when you aren’t living on the edge of seafood-producing oceans, rivers, and lakes. 

The need to find ways to help chefs and consumers overcome hurdles in the supply chain, including limited local access, transparency, and price, led us to create our first ever Sustainable Seafood Partnership to engage seafood marketing organizations and/or specific producers. Our first partners were several of the leading aquaculture producers in the world: Australias Barramundi, Blue Ocean Mariculture, Skuna Bay, and Verlasso. All are rated, by scientific experts, including Monterey Bay, as good alternatives or best choices. 
They have also agreed, even though they are competitors, to work together with us to have broad conversations about sustainable seafood through Culinary Labs and Issue Summits in multiple cities across the country. The first will take place in Washington, D.C. on June 5, 2018.

These are also our first partners, not our last. We hope that this partnership grows to include companies that source wild-caught items, local seafood marketing groups, and even hyper-local fishing communities. At the end of the day, our vision is that the Beard Foundation is a place where diverse voices can come together and have open and tough conversations. We must work together to figure out how we meet growing demand while addressing (and improving) endangered and limited supply.

Some of that will be met by aquaculture, some by diversifying our wild-caught choices, some by removing some fish altogether until stocks can rebound. There is no one answer to this problem—there is only a systematic approach that requires all voices at the table.

Learn more about Smart Catch.

Learn more about our Sustainable Seafood Partnerships.

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Katherine Miller is JBF’s senior director of food policy advocacy. Find her on Twitter.