The Rise of Sustainable Food Sourcing: Considerations for Seafood Restaurateurs

Cultivating and harvesting aquatic animals for consumption has been a practice of every civilization in history.  Globally, aquaculture supplies more than 50 percent of all seafood produced for human consumption—and that percentage will continue to rise, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). 

Today, there is an industry debate over wild-caught versus farmed, with the latter pulling ahead in many conversational circles. However, while there have been documented problems associated with poorly managed fish farms, modern, ethically managed aquaculture with carefully controlled conditions is still considered by scientists to be one of the best ways for humans to meet the growing demand for animal protein with minimal environmental damage. Mariculture, fish farming, and other types of aquaculture can be beneficial for many reasons. From re-stocking wild populations, reducing overfishing, and creating alternative fuel sources, to creating green jobs, conserving natural biodiversity, and reducing environmental disturbance.

Sustainable Food Sourcing Is Worth the Effort

Sourcing seafood sustainably takes a bit more work but is worth it. It requires fisheries, farms, and restaurants to be more thoughtful every step of the way. New protocols must be put in place that allows fisheries to assess stocks better and meet quotas. A fishery may also require new equipment, while aquacultures might implement more environmental controls. Restaurants might choose different suppliers or choose new menu items. Just like farmers in the organic revolution, fisheries and farms must invest in new processes and have their supply chain re-audited regularly to show that they are consistently meeting stringent certification requirements.

Fishery improvement projects and aquaculture improvement projects are designated fisheries and aquacultures that have expressed a desire to be more sustainable. These businesses work with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), and other regulatory bodies through a multistep process. They focus on everything from fishing methods to quotas and assessing stocks and surrounding ecosystems until they meet the standards to gain MSC certification, ASC certification, or a Seafood Watch Yellow/Green rating. MSC certified fisheries are required to leave enough fish in the ocean to maintain sustainable fishing stocks, minimize their environmental impact, and effectively manage their operations

Source Responsibly

At Aloha Poke, we studied and researched sustainable food sourcing to offer the best, freshest, and most responsible foods available for our guests. Here are some organizations we discovered along our journey that are making a difference in sustainable food sourcing:

The Sustainable Seafood Program at the John G. Shedd Aquarium in Chicago has been a leader in educating the public on sourcing since 1999. They work with culinary experts, restaurants, and grocery stores to raise consumer awareness on overfishing. They also work hand-in-hand with local restaurant partners like Aloha Poke Co. to trace their seafood back to responsibly managed fisheries. 

The Shedd also has a partnership with the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program, which has created a Seafood Watch app, and consumer pocket guide to discover "ocean-friendly" choices when shopping or dining out.

Commitments Restaurants Should Consider in 2021

If seafood is a large part (or any part) of your menu offering, sourcing from sustainable and responsible fisheries and farms is the best way to leaving a minimal environmental impact and attracting a larger customer base. Here are the top three most common seafood items served in today's restaurants and what we've learned about sustainable and responsibly sourcing.

Globally, the yellowfin tuna population is considered to be overfished, except for the Western and Central Pacific region. Our brand works exclusively with fisheries in the Western and Central Pacific who hand pull tuna aboard one-by-one with handlines and traditional hand-operated poles, freeing juvenile fish along the way. Our tuna is rated "Best Choice" from Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch because of the sustainable sourcing practices.

Shrimp can be found worldwide, often near the seafloor of most coasts and estuaries and in rivers and lakes. Our whiteleg shrimp has been given an Eco-Cert rating from Seafood Watch, and their supplier farms have a Best Aquaculture Practice Certification. Well-managed shrimp aquaculture respects and preserves delicate habitats such as mangroves. It also reduces runoff or spills into nearby waterways or groundwater and ensures that all animals maintain a high health standard.

Salmon is a keystone species and is one of the most popular seafood items given its healthy offering of Omega -3 fatty acids. Humans aren't the only ones aware of salmon's contribution to healthy ecosystems, as many other species depend on them for survival. They bring ocean nutrients with them, which helps fertilize riverbeds, and they are an essential protein source for bears and other large predators. Our Atlantic salmon is raised without antibiotics and sourced from Chilean aquacultures holding a 2019 Best Aquaculture Practice (BAP) processing plant certification. This means that the supplier is certified for the humane treatment of the product they process, a standard of the plant's environmental quality, and just treatment of their workers.