What is 'sustainable' seafood?

May 21, 2010 12:00:35 PM PDT
The word sustainable is used frequently on restaurant menus, but sometimes it's just a marketing trick.The term is a response to concerns about overfishing and the environment. So he decided to ask around. The result?

Last year, the Sushisamba Restaurant group sold more than a half-million dollars' worth of bluefin tuna. But the fish is on the endangered list and is absolutely not sustainable, so they took it off of their menu recently. They are now working with "Clean-Seas Seafood," to establish a sustainable seafood program for all of their locations. The term applies to not only environmental issues, but also to fisheries that treat employees with as much respect as they do the product they're harvesting.

The Shedd Aquarium is both a place for fun and education. But lately, in addition to messages about conservation practices, there has been another key word: sustainability.

"?So when we are supporting sustainable seafood options, we are in turn supporting healthy oceans and healthy waters around the world," said a cooking instructor to her class.

Yes, they are now offering occasional cooking classes at the Shedd, like this one, featuring Arctic char. It's part of the aquarium's effort to showcase their "Right Bite" program.

"It's our Right Bite sustainable seafood wallet card. It contains a list of commonly eaten seafood classified into three different categories: green, yellow or red," said Kassia Perpich, the Shedd's Sustainable Seafood Coordinator.

Green are the most sustainable choices, from healthy populations of fish. They're caught or farmed in an environmentally friendly way. Yellow means middle of the road in terms of sustainability; these species are on the fence. Red is seafood that they recommend saving for special occasions, if at all. At the Soundings Cafe, they always have one sustainable choice on the menu, like these farm-raised shrimp tacos.

"We work very closely with the culinary industry: restaurants, retailers, seafood purveyors - to raise awareness and build a demand for sustainable seafood in our Chicago market," Perpich said.

One of those restaurant partners is Bistro Campagne in Lincoln Square, where you can dig into a giant bowl of steamed mussels from Prince Edward Island, and know that they're sustainably caught.

"We've decided it's probably smart to follow Mother Nature and stick with sustainable fish and that's what we've done," said Michael Altenberg, the Chef/Owner of Bistro Campagne.

Altenberg's barramundi is farm-raised in Australia. It's simply sauteed, then served with leeks in a red wine-shallot sauce. Similarly, his trout comes from Rushing Waters fishery in Wisconsin. He pan-roasts it, serving it simply with green beans and a sauce made from butter, blood oranges and fresh tarragon.

"We want to focus on seasonality, which is a big part of the reason, and we'd like all the fish that are out there to stay out there, at least in our lifetimes and our children's; so in a gentle way you have to tell your customers that it's not the season and that they should anticipate when beautiful salmon comes in, or when certain fish are available and not available," said Altenberg.

Local restaurants/businesses selling sustainably-raised seafood:

Bistro Campagne
4518 N. Lincoln Ave.
773-271-6100
bistrocampagne.com

Shedd Aquarium
1200 S. Lake Shore Dr.
312-939-2438
sheddaquarium.org

Big Jones
5347 N. Clark St.
773-275-5725
bigjoneschicago.com

Supreme Lobster & Seafood Inc
220 E. North Ave., Villa Park
630-834-3474

supremelobster.com

Prairie Fire
215 N. Clinton
312-382-8300
prairiefirechicago.com

Prairie Grass
601 Skokie Blvd., Northbrook
847-205-4433
prairiegrasscafe.com

North Pond
2610 N. Cannon Dr.
773-477-5845
northpondrestaurant.com

For more information: cleanseas.com

Pocket Guides

Shedd Aquarium: sheddaquarium.org/rightbite

Monterey Bay Aquarium: montereybayaquarium.org

Blue Ocean Institute in New York: blueocean.org

National Oceanic and Atmosheric Administration: mmfs.noaa.gov


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