Environment

Smart Catch for Sustainable Seafood

(AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Smart Catch is a sustainable sea food program created by chefs for chefs to recognise restaurants working toward ensuring an abundant supply of seafood for future generations. The program also helps diners to make their choices more sustainable and to support restaurants who are thinking and caring about our oceans.

According to WWF and the Global Footprint Network the Earth overshoot day this year fell earlier than ever before – August 2, 2017.  That means that in 8 months mankind has spent more of natural resources than the Planet Earth can renew in the whole year. Food makes up 26% of humanity’s ecological footprint, so it is more important than ever to know where your food comes from. Part of this is also formed by overfishing the oceans. According to WWF:

“Overfishing occurs when more fish are caught than the population can replace through natural reproduction. Gathering as many fish as possible may seem like a profitable practice, but overfishing has serious consequences. The results not only affect the balance of life in the oceans, but also the social and economic well-being of the coastal communities who depend on fish for their way of life.”

Hence it is more important than ever before to inform and educate the public and the restaurant industry about sustainable ways to harvest seafood. For decades various groups have been working on helping the public and the restaurants to make more sustainable seafood choices; you can find the list of international sustainable fish guides here.

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Smart Catch is a sustainable seafood program developed in Seattle by Paul G. Allen, Microsoft co-founder, and it was piloted in 2015 with 50 local chefs representing 80 Seattle restaurants. They write on their homepage:

“The idea for Smart Catch is simple and powerful: the program provides training and support to chefs so they can serve seafood fished or farmed in environmentally responsible ways. And, by earning a Smart Catch emblem, consumers have a simple way to identify and support their restaurants. With more than 90 percent of the world’s fisheries either fully fished or overfished, preserving marine life to assure stable fishing stocks and promoting sustainably farmed options is more important than ever.”

The program aims to increase the amount of sustainable seafood available at the US restaurants from reliable sources by educating chefs and raising diners’ awareness. Smart Catch uses up-to-date sustainability assessments provided by FishChoice.com, an online sustainable seafood sourcing tool that connects retail and restaurants to suppliers of sustainable seafood products. And it looks like their program is working, as at the start of June the James Beard Foundation, one of the most prominent culinary institutions in the US, joined forces with Smart Catch on the fight for sustainable seafood in the restaurants. To quote Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation:

“Chefs have the influence to educate our palates and our views. […] Through Smart Catch, they are becoming new environmental heroes, as they use their influence to lead industry efforts to maintain healthy, sustainable food sources both now and for future generations.”

More than 60 chefs representing more than 100 restaurants have already committed to the Smart Catch program. Accordingly the chefs associated with the James Beard Foundation aim to accomplish that 80% of seafood served in the restaurants is sustainable. If this aim is met, the restaurant menu earns the Smart Catch emblem, thus giving the diners a simple way to identify and support Smart Catch program restaurants. As James Deutsch, conservation director for Paul G. Allen, said:

“The future of the world’s oceans depends on all of us choosing sustainable seafood,” said James Deutsch, conservation director for Paul Allen. “James Beard Foundation’s announcement of their national rollout of Smart Catch represents a giant step in that direction. We couldn’t be more proud of the continued growth of this pioneering program we piloted in Seattle.”

Let’s hope that this program continues to expand and to educate both sides of the table – the chef and the diner – to preserve our oceans.

To find the full list of the Smart Catch chefs and participating chefs click here.

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