DePaul University feeds thousands of students, faculty, and staff every day in several cafeterias throughout their campuses. Very often people order their favorite items without thinking of the environmental impact their choices may be having. Do you consider where the meat from your cheeseburger came from, or if your chicken strips contain added hormones?
DePaul has taken the environment and sustainability of its food selections into consideration before serving it. One of their sustainability best practices is that they purchase 98% of their seafood from distributors who meet the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch guidelines. Seafood Watch program raises consumer awareness about the importance of sustainability when it comes to consumption of seafood. They encourage restaurants, schools, and individuals to purchase their seafood from sustainable sources and be aware of which species are being over fished.
Seafood Watch Pocket Guides and an iPhone application are two ways in which they broadcast their message about what seafood is sustainable. As the list is always changing, it is important for people to be proactive about being up to date on current trends.
Commercial fishing gear is a main issue when it comes to overfishing. Longlining and bottom trawling are two methods of fishing that destroy other species of fish and damage the natural habitat of the sea floor. Unintended catch, or “by-catch” accounts for 3-7 pounds of unwanted fish for every pound of shrimp. This not only means a depletion of shrimp, but also a large number of other species that are accidentally killed in the process.
One alternative to wild caught seafood is farmed fish. While aquaculture, or fish farming, is a potential solution to overfishing, there are several problems that have arisen such as pollution from waste; isolated populations are vulnerable to disease and genetic problems; and non-native fish that escape into surrounding waters can wreak havoc on local wildlife.
Ironically, aquaculture can also require massive amounts of wild-caught fish. Many popular farmed fish like salmon and shrimp are carnivorous, and require many times their own weight in other fish to feed them. These feeder fish have to be wild-caught in the ocean, so the net result of farmed fish may actually represent a double whammy of environmental impact.
Sustainable seafood appears to be a rising trend among chain restaurants, retailers and wholesalers and each sector sees significant growth in the percentage of their seafood that will be sustainable in five years. Majorities in each sector are concerned about the health of the ocean and its impact on their businesses. All sectors have taken action to remove seafood items from their product list due to environmental considerations, and in greater numbers than a few years ago.
Because 75% of the world’s fisheries are fished to capacity, or overfished, it is up to consumers to buy sustainable products to decrease overfishing. It is estimated that we’ve lost 90% of large predatory fish, like sharks, due to the fact that the species they feed on have been overfished. Seafood Watch looks at several issues including species, habitat, and management to determine what may become endangered. It is up to consumers, and food service institutions like DePaul to make informed choices about the seafood we consume. We can thank DePaul for serving sustainable seafood choices in their cafeteria!
More information on sustainable seafood is available at:
Walsh, Bryan. “Code Blue. One woman’s quest to save our oceans the simple way: protect them.” Time Magazine. October 2, 2010: p40-48.
Posted By: Amanda Blair
Image Credit: http://www.edf.org/page.cfm?tagID=1521&redirect=seafood