Over 70 percent of the world's fish supply is being either over fished or completely depleted.[i] Research shows that split is about 50/50 between retail stores and restaurants of where Americans buy their seafood, but restaurants generate about two thirds of the revenue on seafood sales due to markups.[ii] So, restaurants play a huge role in the fishing industry.
With the dwindling seafood supply, a better way needs to be found to feed the country's increasing appetite for seafood. One method is genetic engineering, and there is a variety of genetically engineered salmon that might soon find its way into the food supply. However, there are a large number of consumer groups and restaurants that are against eating and serving genetically engineered foods. An alternative to serving GE foods is to purchase and serve sustainable seafood.
Sustainable Seafood Defined
Sustainable seafood refers to seafood that is farmed or fished from sources that can maintain or increase productivity without damaging the ecosystem and threatening the availability of future seafood supplies.
The Benefits of Sustainable Seafood
Serving sustainable seafood is beneficial to your restaurant, your customers and the environment. Here is a list of the top benefits of sustainable seafood:
- Avoiding heavy metals. Beyond the fact that seafood is rich in, vitamins, minerals, lean protein and hearth-healthy Omega-3 fatty acids, sustainable seafood also has less mercury in it. Mercury and other heavy metals can build up in the flesh of fish that are marine-caught or farmed. Sustainable seafood comes from sources that are better maintained and decrease the chances of mercury getting in the fish.
- Lower environmental impact. The environmental impact of over-fishing is akin to deforestation and slash-and-burn farming techniques. Entire underwater ecosystems can be wiped out. If this continues to happen, there won't be any fish left. Sustainable seafood farming methods work to protect aquatic ecosystems and assure that species of fish do not become extinct.
- Increased restaurant sales. Strain on the food supply increases prices which could turn customers away from that plate of grilled salmon, but if more sustainable seafood raising methods are used, the supply will increase, which means the price of expensive seafood dishes can come down to a level that is more appetizing to customers while still being profitable for the restaurant.
- Better quality food. Another drawback to over-fishing or environmentally-damaging fishing methods is that strained ecosystems do not provide the ideal living conditions to raise healthy fish. So, the fish that are caught could be sick, underdeveloped or have other problems. Sustainable seafood, on the other hand, is fresher, purer and has better taste. All of these attributes can also increase restaurant sales when customers realize that your sustainable fish tastes a lot better than the other guys'.
Sustainable Seafood Certification
The easiest way to know if your seafood is from a sustainable source is to look for the blue seal from the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The Marine Stewardship Council is an independent organization that works closely with the World Wildlife Fund to make the seafood industry more sustainable. Fish suppliers that are certified have met or exceeded the MSC's standards for environmental protection and seafood sustainability.
The Seafood Watch Guide
Another method for restaurants to be sustainable more sustainable with their seafood is to purchase within their region and substitute over-farmed species with those that are more readily available. The Seafood Watch Guide is a tool that created by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It helps you decide which species are available in your region and how you can make substitutions.
Having fish flown in from across the globe sounds very posh, but this is where the problem begins: too much demand from a limited resource. A more sustainable alternative is to stay local and purchase seafood from fish farms that are within your region of the country. The Seafood Watch Guide has a regional selection tool that tells you which seafood is the best choice for your region. It also lists good alternatives and species that you should avoid. The guide can also be printed out or downloaded to a smartphone.
Where to Purchase Sustainable Seafood
Looking for the "Certified Sustainable Seafood" logo is the first thing you want to look for when purchasing sustainable seafood and the MSC also has a map of certified fisheries. FishChoice.com is another website that is dedicated to pairing sustainable fisheries with buyers. These are just two of the most popular sources for finding sustainable seafood. With the ease at which sustainable seafood can be found, it’s almost harder to not go sustainable. When you consider how strained the seafood population is becoming, sustainability isn't really a choice, anymore.