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The Challenge of Suppling Sustainable Seafood

By 3p Contributor

By: Denis Faye

People are eating more fish nowadays. Maybe it's a backlash against the world's skyrocketing obesity rates, so we're looking to leaner proteins. Maybe we're becoming more aware of the health benefits of seafood. True, the mercury level in some fish might be a slight concern, but it's far outweighed by the excellent omega-3 fatty acids, calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 you get in every flakey bite. Or, maybe it's just that we're figuring out how delicious a properly grilled wild Alaskan salmon fillet tastes. Either way, the demand is there, so if you own a market or restaurant, I hope you're jumping on supply part of the equation.

Supply is a big problem; the world is running out of fish - and educated consumers know this. Gone are the days when many people will settle for their weekly, dependable (yet obliquely mysterious) McDonald's Filet-o-Fish. They want to know what they're eating, how it was caught, where it was caught, and how many more are left swimming around in the ocean. (For the record, the mystery meat in Filet-o-Fish is mostly either Alaskan Pollock or hoki, both sustainable fisheries.)

At first blush, gathering all this information sounds like another new headache for suppliers. But in truth, it's a great marketing opportunity. If you're transparent about the source of your seafood, you can trumpet that fact, attracting savvy customers. For example, I'm not a big shopper at Whole Foods, largely given its nickname, Whole Paycheck, but I do swing by for their seafood. I'm willing to pay a couple extra bucks, given the extensive information they offer on sustainability. Although country of origin labeling laws mandate that all US seafood vendors clearly display where fish comes from, Whole Foods takes it a step further. They've stopped selling several overfished species, including Chilean sea bass and orange roughy. They also mark seafood that has been certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council.

But consumers won't have to pay top-dollar to eat ethically for long. According to the Wall Street Journal, Safeway is working to implement similar standards and Kroger plans on having solely sustainable seafood on its shelves by 2015.

The same WSJ article goes on to complain how difficult it is to understand which fisheries are sustainable and which aren't. Frankly, it just reads like an excuse not to bother with the whole affair. The truth is, finding safe seafood is simple in the modern age. There are a number of great resources online, the two best being Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch Program and the Blue Water Institute, both offering extensive information on the good, the bad, and the ugly of the world's fish stocks. They also both have excellent iPhone apps so you can get the information quickly when you're down at the docks buying today's special.

Sometimes the two may disagree slightly on the sustainability of a particular fish, but by and large they're on the same page. Either way, they're both highly credible institutions, so you'll be fine if you trust either one.

And, in turn, your customers will be fine if they trust you.

Formerly "weight challenged," Denis Faye dropped 50 pounds following a 5-year jaunt through Australia, a trip that helped him become the extreme sports and fitness enthusiast he is today. He's been a professional journalist for 17 years, writing on sports and fitness for Outside, the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, Los Angeles Magazine, Wired, Men's Health, Men's Journal, GQ, Salon.com, Surfer, and Pacific Longboarder, specializing in fitness, nutrition and weight loss articles. His sports include swimming, scuba, rock climbing, spelunking, mountain biking, trekking, andómost importantósurfing. Denis is a writer on staff for Beachbody, which provides effective and popular home fitness programs.


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