The National Restaurant Association declared “sustainable seafood” to be number nine on its list of the “Top 20 Food Trends” for 2016. Also making the cut? “Locally sourced meats and seafood,” as well as “environmental sustainability”.
All three add up to one major takeaway for forward-thinking restaurant owners and managers. If you’re not aiming to show off your commitment to serving up sustainable seafood, you’re falling short of fulfilling some key requirements among today’s diners.
Luckily, there are some things you can do to change your course.
Let’s take a closer look at the state of sustainable seafood in the US, along with highlighting three tips for helping restaurants get on board with the sustainability movement.
A Decade of Progress
Due to the collaborative efforts of everyone from fishermen to government officials, over-fishing in this country has rebounded from its dire state a mere decade ago to near all-time lows.
All in all, more than 100 species are now in the process of making a remarkable recovery. But there’s still work to be done to stay on track. Enter Eat These Fish!
A campaign of the Environmental Defense Fund in partnership with industry leaders, including the Restaurant Association’s Conserve Program and Chefs Collaborative, Eat These Fish! strives to unite stakeholders in a common mission: Changing the way people think about seafood.
The website is a fantastic repository of information on seafood sustainability, including stories from the fishermen themselves, cooking tips from top chefs, and seafood recipes.
Seafood Sustainability for Restaurants
The best part of the Eat These Fish! Campaign? It’s working! But restaurants can do their part to make sure things continue moving in the right direction, including these adopting these measures:
1. Discover Domestic
Did you know that a staggering 90 percent of all seafood consumed in this country is imported?
While many restaurants feel like they have no other option than to rely on imported seafood, the truth is that there are plenty of ways to integrate domestic offerings into your menu.
Not sure where to begin? At the core of Eat These Fish! is the highlighting of 12 “sustainable, abundant and delicious” American fish, including the Acadian redfish, lingcod, longnose skate, yellowtail rockfish, chilipepper rockfish, Pacific Ocean perch, snow crab, red snapper, red grouper, Atlantic pollock, monkfish and whiting.
The Environmental Defense Fund’s Seafood Selector is also a useful resource for identifying fish which are eco-friendly and healthy.
2. Spread the Word
Just like you touch base with your produce vendor to find out about what’s in season, so should you check in with your fisheries to learn more about their offerings, along with the measures they’re taking toward greater sustainability.
But the benefits of sharing information don’t end there. It’s also useful to educate your diners about the seafood you’re serving.
After all, diners may be hesitant to try fish they’ve never heard of. The more information you share, the more likely they are to be willing to try something new-to-them, delicious and sustainable.
Not only that, but telling your customers that you serve sustainable seafood is also an effective marketing tool with more and more diners prioritizing sustainability when choosing where to spend their dining dollars.
3. Reframe Your Thinking
Many people think sticking with sustainable fish involves compromising either your budget or your menu choices.
The truth is that the 12 fish highlighted by Eat These Fish! are affordable and tasty.
Another great source for learning more about how to make and serve better seafood choices? The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch offers a comprehensive set of tools comprising training modules, informational videos, and even a sample “Sustainable Seafood Request Letter” to inform your suppliers that you’re interested in sustainable seafood options.
While much progress has been made over the past 10 years, there’s still far to go to undo the damage done through years of over-fishing.
By committing to serving sustainable fish, you’re not only making a contribution to this vital movement, but you’re also helping your restaurant: According to an NPR poll, 80 percent of fish-eating Americans believe that is is “important” or “very important” to buy and consume sustainable fish.