As consumers ourselves, we know that terms like “Sustainable” and “Ocean Wise” can be confusing terms for a lot of people shopping. Even educated experts and those involved in the harvesting of our food find “ethical” is often a moving target – difficult to pin down. I believe a lot of us want to eat ethical but sometimes there are misconceptions like “it’s more expensive”, or “does it really matter in the long run?” Well, I’ve spent a lot of years researching the products I bring into our store and I can tell you from experience that “it does matter” where we get our seafood and that it doesn’t cost more to eat ethically.
I know a lot of people realize that decades of mismanagement and continued overfishing have reduced many species’ populations to the brink of extinction. There is hope though and you, the consumer, our government and the seafood industry itself are becoming aware of their impact and fishermen are changing their practices for the better.
At the end of the day, we’re here to sell you a product that we know is not only sustainable, but Ocean Wise (a term I’ll talk about in a few seconds) and is harvested in an ethical manner.
It’s a big inter-connected globe that today is easily traveled with a few strokes of a keyboard with a search engine like Google. From your home you can look up some of the horror stories: slavery being used to harvest shrimp; 75% of the world’s farmed prawns being produced in Asia where environmental destruction, food insecurity, human rights abuses and illegal land-seizures are just a few examples of the problems associated with the prawn farming in Asia and Latin America; fish caught after being poisoned by cyanide and corals ripped apart by dynamite, all in the quest to fill fish nets.
Taras Grescoe writes in the book Bottomfeeder:
Not much can stand in the way of supertrawler nets, whose mouths, held open by doors that can weigh 12,000 pounds each, are big enough to swallow whole houses. The steel rollers that keep the net off the sea bottom plow through corals, sea fans, sponge gardens, and other fragile, centuries-old structures, on the hunt for shrimp, cod, monkfish, and orange roughy. We are, in effect, clear-cutting the oceans. Off the coasts of Florida, bottom trawling has ground 90 percent of the state’s Oculina coral reefs into rubble.
Taras continues to write:
The cheap shrimp found on fast-food menus is frequently treated with antibiotics. Scallops (as well as shrimp and even wild salmon) are soaked in sodium tripolyphosphate, a suspected neurotoxicant used in paint strippers, to keep them from drying out in transit. High-grade tuna is treated with carbon monoxide to prevent it from turning brown; you can leave it in a car trunk for a year, and it will still be lollipop red.
I know it can seem overwhelming but there is hope.
It’s practices like those in the previous paragraphs that drove me to search for answers and to source fish that I personally know “the story” – of where the fish came from and in a lot of cases, which boat and fisherman who caught it.
Some people may have heard the term “slow food.”
The Slow Food philosophy is based on everyday gastronomic pleasure for everyone. This goes hand in hand with recovering the links that have long united people to the planet and their food.
To embody this philosophy, Slow Food has developed a concept of food quality divided into three fundamental and interdependent principles, summed up as good, clean and fair.
Good: fresh, delicious and seasonal, satisfying the senses and connected to our culture and local identity.
Clean: produced using methods that respect the environment and human health.
Fair: accessible prices for consumers, but also fair earnings that can guarantee decent working and living conditions for small-scale producers and workers.
These principles correspond to a global vision of food production, taking into consideration the environment’s ability to renew itself and the need for people to live together in harmony, and are as applicable to fish as any other food.
As fishmongers, owners and parents we care not only about our oceans but what we feed our kids and I can personally tell you there is nothing on my shelf that I wouldn’t take home and feed our family.
Remember the term I used earlier – Ocean Wise? Well, overfishing is the biggest threat our oceans face today. We’re proud to be the first seafood market in Canada to adopt the Ocean Wise program which ensures consumers are buying an ocean-friendly seafood choice that ensure the health of our oceans for generations to come.
Take a look in our showcase … you’ll see there are labels about how our fish were caught … and in some cases, we’ll name the boat and fisherman who caught it.
So why buy from us? Well, I believe that you should buy seafood from a fishmonger who brings in artisanal fish products from fishermen we know are ethical and also from sustainably managed fisheries.
I’m happy to say a lot of the fantastic restaurants in the Okanagan get their seafood from us – their ‘stamp of approval’ is something we’re proud of. If the great restaurants you’re familiar with here buy from us … that alone says something about the seafood we’re bringing in to the Valley.
Above all, we’re here to help and answers questions – feel free to ask away and from all our family here at Codfathers Seafood Market, we’re thankful for your business.