Sustainable Seafood at Cal Dining
By: Bella Tsay, Cal Dining Sustainability Team
A commonly placed stereotype about seafood in dorm dining is that it is mysterious – mysterious in where it came from, and how exactly it got here. Currently, the marine environment is under extreme pressure through the practice of overfishing and fishing tactics that completely destroy natural underwater habitats. When more fish are caught than naturally reproduced, this imbalance can have extreme consequences on coastal communities and the normal balance of ocean life. Trawling – dragging large fish nets along the ocean floor to catch specific types of fish not only annihilates habitats but also unintentionally catches various underwater species. Sustainable seafood focuses on bringing awareness to the exploitation and destruction of underwater habitats. It is important and necessary to quash the idea of mysterious seafood, and to be able to know exactly where our food comes from and how it is being fished – a feat Cal Dining is aiming to achieve.
In order to do this, Cal Dining is working with the Monterey Bay Aquarium (MBA) Seafood Watch Program. This program focuses on the impacts on the environment for farming or catching a specific type of seafood. From suppliers to producers, they identify environmentally responsible options for all types of seafood choices. 70% of the fish that is consumed in this country is cooked out of the household. 59% of all the fish and seafood caught is served through food service operations; of this, institutional dining serves the greatest majority. These statistics bring to light the importance of sustainable seafood sourcing in establishments such as Cal Dining, where fish is served every day. Cal Dining’s buying practices has the power to set a standard for smaller establishments.
To bring to light the importance of sustainable seafood, Cal Dining executives and chefs met with Sheila Bowman, a trained consultant at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program. Her presentation stressed the importance of well-researched seafood purchasing – where does the fish come from and how is it fished? She also worked with the Cal Dining Sustainability team in educational tabling during the Campanile Theme Night meal on November 19th at Crossroads. The menu featured Alaskan Crab, Salmon mousse, and jumbo prawns, all sources ranked on the Good Alternatives list or higher according to the MBA Seafood Watch Program. This feature of sustainable seafood brought to light student interest in the topic. Many students expressed curiosity and wanted to know more about where their food came from. The MBA Seafood Watch Program will continue to have a presence at Cal Dining, be it a special holiday or everyday meal.
The partnership between Cal Dining and MBA Seafood Watch means that Cal Dining is able to adapt its menu to incorporate more environmentally friendly seafood options according to the MBA Seafood watch recommendations. Want to know if the shrimp on your plate is a sustainable seafood option? Access http://www.seafoodwatch.org/ online to learn more about how shrimp ranks as a Best Choice, Good Alternative, or Avoid option in terms of sustainability, and where these specific options can be found. Everyone can take a part in supporting sustainable seafood by referencing MBA Seafood Watch Guides before making a purchase or supporting partners of the MBA Program – the list consists of businesses, restaurants, and all kinds of establishments ultimately working together for the same goal. Demand ultimately affects a supply – and the more support sustainable seafood establishments can get, the more retailers will slowly begin to change to meet that need. Together, we can make fish at the dining commons less of a mystery and more of a delicacy.