Grocery shopping for the health conscious is increasingly off-putting, as decisions are no longer just generic versus brand name. Harmful pesticides are found in everyday food products and government promises to rid the nation’s food supply of these chemicals remain unfulfilled. Once considered a luxury item, fish is now eaten everyday by consumers. To meet the explosion of the seafood commodity market, the United States relies on imports. Though not all imported seafood is bad, the contradicting information can be confusing. Having to rely on “pocket guides” to tell us which seafood is safe is helpful, but none-the-less unnerving. It is hard not to think, there has got to be a better way?
Companies like CleanFish, the focus of this article, are providing both domestically sourced and imported seafood products that come from fisherman and fish farmers all over the world who are utilizing innovative, responsible and regenerative practices. CleanFish, founded in 2004 by Tim O’Shea and Dale Sims, is an innovative company that has sparked a movement centered around healthier, great tasting, sustainably produced, artisan seafood, both wild-caught and farmed. Tim and Dale knew a better way was needed after bearing witness to the destruction of the planet’s oceans from industrial fishing operations. Their business relies on utilizing the power of the market to create positive change.
It is important that fisheries making the changes necessary to secure a healthy future for our water systems are supported. This change couldn’t come any sooner since overfishing activities are considered a major economic, ecological and environmental concern. Much of the blame for the collapse of fisheries lies in the unregulated use of massive bottom-trawling nets used in 67 million square miles of ocean. These nets destroy corals and seamounts and capture unwanted “by catch” fish that are simply thrown away. CleanFish and their Alliance members are working to curb these practices, choosing instead to use more efficient technology that is both cost effective and environmentally friendly.
CleanFish’s practices are not a certification system, instead their business model focuses on connecting environmentally responsible fish suppliers with distributors to get sustainable seafood to restaurant kitchens and supermarkets. They work to establish strong, personal relationships with consumers, chefs, seafood wholesalers and distributors, retailers, fisherman and fish farmers. In addition to sustainably sourcing seafood, CleanFish vets producers to be sure the fish are healthy and treated humanely.
CleanFish works with both wild caught fishing operations and fish farms. With the increased demand for fish, farms are playing a significant role in supply, with more than 50 percent of seafood actually being farm-raised. CleanFish looks for domestic and international fish farms that are raising fish in an environmentally responsible manner; think free-range for seafood. Integral to their success is telling powerful stories that connect with consumers.
An example of how CleanFish is effectively changing the future of aquaculture can be seen with their introduction of Laughing Bird Caribbean White Shrimp, which comes from a family-owned, eco-friendly operation in coastal Belize. Farmed with close attention to the health of the animal, the environment and the people who consume it, this white shrimp is a delicious alternative to rock shrimp. Rock shrimp is caught in deep water by huge bottom trawlers and the shrimp are doused in chemical alternatives before freezing.
Next time you order or purchase seafood, think about where it came from and consider if it’s as healthy for you as you might think. Rest assured, however, that companies like CleanFish are working to resolve the confusion by finding the best producers of both farmed and wild caught fish and making those products accessible to consumers.