What does 'sustainable seafood' even mean? School is in session

By Deborah Kidd, marketing manager

If you follow our blog, you know that we often share exciting advances, new perspectives and milestone moments for our natural world. We hope to educate and inspire you so that together we can make a major mark in conservation. Last week, however, our Washington team turned the tables: Our staff became the students, and, in fact, we learned about schools — of fish, that is! Local experts who are renowned worldwide joined us for a panel on efforts to ensure healthy, robust (and tasty) fish, today and for the future.

Sustainable fisheries, we learned, are about more than secure seafood. Thoughtful, progressive practices that safeguard fish populations can, in turn, protect and sustain livelihoods, economies and community traditions. And you don’t have to spend a season afloat in Alaska to play your part: “Try something new,” chef Hajime Sato dared us. Buy domestic seafood. Seek out sustainable restaurants. Learn what’s on your plate, where it came from and which fish to avoid.

Our panel of local, world-renowned experts. From left, Becky Selengut, private chef and author on sustainable seafood, Eddie Allison, UW professor of marine and environmental affairs, John Woodruff, vice president of operations for Icicle Seafoods, Casson Trenor, founding partner of the Tataki Sustainable Restaurant Group and Hajime Sato, chef and owner of Mashiko, Seattle’s first fully sustainable sushi restaurant. 

Our panel of local, world-renowned experts. From left, Becky Selengut, private chef and author on sustainable seafood, Eddie Allison, UW professor of marine and environmental affairs, John Woodruff, vice president of operations for Icicle Seafoods, Casson Trenor, founding partner of the Tataki Sustainable Restaurant Group and Hajime Sato, chef and owner of Mashiko, Seattle’s first fully sustainable sushi restaurant. 

“So what is sustainable?” staff asked. And though our panelists ranged from a chef to a university professor, they advocated the same perspective: Use what’s there, without using it up. The good news is that, even with a variety of approaches to gauge seafood sustainability, the industry is encouraging ingenuity and creativity. This struck home for us at The Conservancy, where innovation is a hallmark of our work. With marine science on our minds, we turned next to our own Oceans team members, who shared a peek into their pioneering projects.

From gear that targets high-value fish while offering an escape route for their less abundant co-habitants, to collaborative coastal planning to protect fragile shorelines, we learned about work that is at once aspirational yet very tangible. We learned that Washington’s ocean waters are plied by far more than fishermen — energy, industry, government, conservation and recreation interests must work together to share space in the big blue. And with all that traffic comes the increased risk of oil spills. We learned about how The Nature Conservancy is addressing this challenge, too, by partnering with the Makah tribe and others to improve trans-boundary vessel traffic in the Salish Sea.

After an engaging day of learning — balanced by a bit of revelry — we’re ready to dive deeper into our newfound knowledge, sharing stories of science, sustainability and pivotal collaborations with you. As a wise Washington state author once noted: “The capacity to learn is a gift, the ability to learn is a skill, the willingness to learn is a choice.” Brian Herbert may have been writing in the frame of science fiction, but his words just as surely apply to real, on-the-ground and in-the-water programs here at The Conservancy.

Looking to the new year, we choose to continue learning from each other, from our partners and from you. Stay connected, and let’s learn more together!

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