How to Become Seafood Sustainable

A how-to marine stewardship roadmap for restauranteurs by Bluewater Grill co-founder Jimmy Ulcickas

The following was presented by Bluewater Grill co-founder and seafood expert Jimmy Ulcickas to restaurateurs in March 2012 during the International Boston Seafood Show, North America’s largest and most prestigious seafood trade event.


Seafood sustainability is a very complex issue—so how does a restaurant navigate through murky waters and become sustainable?

To date, more than 90% of the seafood and shellfish we serve at Bluewater Grills in California and Arizona is sustainably caught or certified by respected Seafood Industry NGOs. Despite this, our goal is to have 100% of our menu certified by the end of 2012. This means that every seafood or shellfish item on the menu is certified by the Aquarium of the Pacific Seafood for the Future program, is designated a “Best Choice or Good Alternative” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, or adhere to strict Marine Stewardship Council best-practice standards for sustainable harvesting. Of course, this last 10% of the menu is the most challenging of all.

To be sure, seafood sustainability is an uncertain and inexact science. It is difficult to properly evaluate the biomass of fish species. Even widely recognized experts disagree about a range of topics. In addition, there is no single best way for a restaurant to become sustainable. The only real absolute is the need for a custom-designed seafood sustainability plan that fits the restaurant, owner and customers. And the starting place for all of it is research.

At Bluewater Grill, we created a Five-Step Seafood Sustainability Roadmap to guide the process. In addition, we were one of the first Southern California seafood restaurants to apply a full-disclosure menu philosophy and publish a Fish Origins Chart showing the specific farmed or wild source of every item on the menu. I’m honored to help other seafood restaurants do the same.

 

The five-step process includes:

1. The first step is Commit, or make the conscious, long-term decision that you will do what it takes for your restaurant to become sustainable. With this comes the need to create a few basic goals.

2. The second step is Learn, which entails assessing your current menu items to determine their level of sustainability. This is also the time to decide whether you want to work with a seafood sustainability consultant. To guide us through the process, we worked with Seafood for the Future program at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach as well as a Certified Marine Manager.
3. The third step is to Source Responsibly, which involves identifying and partnering with the proper suppliers and determining which seafood and shellfish species to carry and which to avoid.

4. The fourth step is Implementation and Adaptive Management, which entails training employees, continually revising the menu, as necessary, and reacting to any new information.

5. The final step is to Share, at which time you are encouraged to share your experiences with others, to help other restaurant owners who want to follow the same road.
 

At the end of the day, these suggestions can help restaurant owners understand all that goes into creating a successful seafood sustainability program. Planning is obviously crucial, and every step needs to be a learning process that involves information gathering and decision making.

 

 

Newport Beach
630 Lido Park Drive in Newport Beach, in Cannery Village
(949) 675-FISH (3474)

Redondo Beach
665 North Harbor Drive, at King Harbor
(310) 318-FISH (3474)

Tustin
2409 Park Avenue in Tustin, at the new District at Tustin Legacy retail and entertainment center.
(714) 258-FISH (3474)

Phoenix

1720 East Camelback Road, in the Camelback neighborhood.
(602) 277-FISH (3474)

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