Five fresh-thinking years later, the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program recently celebrated both its anniversary and its most successful year to date. While there are many fish in the sea, the Ocean Wise program has turned more than a few heads towards fins of a less familiar bent in an effort to promote diverse diets and sustainable seafood menu offerings.
The Ocean Wise logo on a restaurant menu, deli-counter or seafood product has become the trusted symbol of ocean-friendly seafood choices for discerning consumers.
Grounded on the West Coast and founded by the Vancouver Aquarium together with eco-avant-garde C restaurant in January 2005, the past year has been one of exponential growth and validating success for Ocean Wise. As the proud recipient of the 2009 Pinnacle Award as Supplier of the Year, Ocean Wise has impacted all sides of the dining equation, nowhere more clearly than at source.
2009 also marked the year Ocean Wise cast its from coast to coast, as due to popular demand, the program went national and now boasts partners from Halifax, NS to Victoria, BC. In the past year alone, it welcomed 120 new partners from all corners of the food chain, bringing its total tally of partners to nearly 300 with over 2700 locations across Canada.
Overfishing is the number one problem facing the world’s oceans. Ocean Wise addresses this critical issue by promoting sustainable fishery practices to prevent habitat destruction and enable species to thrive at optimum population numbers. The program enables Canadians to make environmentally-friendly seafood choices.
Feting in fine style, the Ocean Wise crew recently took Vancouver media on a hydrogen cell fueled cruise to some of its most recent recruits. Our particular night of Ocean Wise dining took us out to Steveston’s Tapenade Bistro where sablefish served as a delicious substitute for sea bass, before returning to Vancouver’s waterside for a serving of dungeness and citrus salad topped by a poached oyster at the Burrard Bridge Marine Bar and Grill along with as solid a helping of halibut as to be had. Both restaurants boast menus that are 95% OceanWise and program manager Mike McDermid admits he has his work cut out figuring the final five percent of the solution.
The trouble it seems, comes down to prawns.
Aside from the window of wonder that brings fresh BC spot prawns to the docks each year, prawns are pretty much a primary offender and a difficult one to address. After all, people love prawns and Ocean Wise has its work cut out changing our minds on that account. That said, where tremendous strides have been made is in removing red light species en masse from its partners menus ranging from the proverbial prawn to seabass to snapper. Little did we realize that snapper is actually a catch all term that can be slapped on to any of 23 species for practical marketing purposes. Unfortunately, a fraction of them are actually sustainable.
Fortunately, whether it’s canned tuna from the supermarket or spicy tuna rolls from a sushi restaurant – fish & chips or fine-dining, it’s easier than ever for consumers to find and enjoy sustainable seafood easily identified through the Ocean Wise symbol on a restaurant menu, display case or product.