In many countries, seafood is primarily eaten in restaurants and the demand for fish in the food-service sector is still strong.
As a result, it is up to restaurants to adopt a responsible supply policy. But to do this, they must have precise and accurate information about sustainable fishing and aquaculture, and know suppliers who can provide them with high-quality and sustainable products.
Of course, it’s not always easy explaining to customers why the menu doesn’t list fish with a high gastronomic value, such as bluefin tuna and salmon. It is even harder to turn this choice into a good communication strategy. However, there are many examples to show it is possible. The media is focusing increasingly on restaurants committed to sustainable sourcing (so cultivate relationships with local journalists!) and certain websites compile lists of the most responsible local restaurants.
A growing number of consumers are looking to chefs as allies in the shared fight for a world of better-managed resources. Taste is a magnificent tool for triggering a change in society.
That said, restaurateurs are not very well supported in their attempts. Generally guides to good and bad fish species are aimed at consumers and do not offer practical help to restaurateurs trying to formulate a responsible supply policy. These guides, deliberately simple, to not tackle some of the more complex issues, such as how to support local fishing communities or how to reduce food miles.
Chefs themselves must develop a better understanding of the situation in order to make enlightened decisions. And they need new tools to help them in their efforts.
If you are in the restaurant business, here are some organizations that can help you switch to sustainable seafood:
- For anyone who buys or sells fish in French-speaking European markets, Seafood Choices Alliance has published a guide to species for professionals in French. This practical 160-page guide looks at the main species eaten in France, Belgium and Switzerland from a sustainable perspective (stocks, production techniques, etc.) using available scientific data. The guide is aimed at distributors, restaurateurs, wholesalers and fishmongers, in other words all the links in the distribution chain for fishing and aquaculture products.
In addition to 60 species fact sheets, the guide contains interviews with professionals in the sector and lists the most important questions to ask suppliers to ensure the sustainability of the species being bought.
- The Good Catch Manual contains information about sustainability for chefs and helps restaurateurs to take responsible decisions about supply.
- Seafood Watch, a program run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, has developed special tools for restaurateurs. These are available online and deal with aspects such as supply policy, staff awareness-raising, menu certification, the search for alternatives, a statement of intent for customers, etc.
- Chefs Collaborative is a not-for-profit American network of chefs promoting a sustainable food system based on collaboration with local communities. It has published the downloadable Seafood Solutions: A Chef's Guide to Sourcing Sustainable Seafood. In collaboration with the Blue Ocean Institute, the network has also designed an educational tool for hotel and culinary schools. The interactive online course is available on the site Green Chefs, Blue Ocean.
- In the United Kingdom, Pisces Responsible Fish Restaurants helps chefs find local fish, putting them in direct contact with selected fishermen.
- The website Charting Nature offers a range of beautiful posters which can help restaurateurs give information to their customers.