Eating sustainable seafood can be a challenge. Knowing which fish to order in a restaurant or in the grocery store is a large enough challenge in itself – asking for the method in which the fish was caught? In most cases you can forget about it. Many restaurants, however, are now trying to make the right choice the easy choice. Promoting menu items as sustainably caught is alluring for many customers, and Sanibel Island restaurant goers are no exception. Sanibel restaurateurs are rapidly joining a local initiative called Seafood Savvy in an effort to promote dinner options that not only taste great, but also options that people can feel good about ordering. Our very own Max Westendorf is helping to lead the charge in recruiting the island’s restaurants, so we caught up with him to get the run-down on the program. Just for reference, Max likes to be called the ‘Sustainable Seafood Wizard’ – if you don’t believe us, snag one of his business cards next time you’re at the school. Anyway, here’s what he had to say:
Sx3: So Max, tell us a little about the Seafood Savvy initiative.
Max: I’d really prefer if you called me ‘Wizard’ or ‘The Wizard.’
Sx3: Alright, Wizard.
Max the Wizard: The program is a state wide effort to educate restaurant owners about sustainable seafood. We’re really trying to get the local businesses and their wholesalers to embrace the idea that serving seafood can be done responsibly and that making a good choice for the ocean isn’t that hard.
Sx3: Are most businesses open to the idea of changing their menus?
Max the Wizard: We’re not trying to get restaurant owners to necessarily change their menus – We’re just trying to get them to serve sustainably caught fish in addition to their already existing menu items, which I think is largely why we’re seeing so much interest in the initiative. Having the choice is good because people are still going to want the items like grouper or salmon which may not be the best choice for the ocean, but if we can highlight the fact that there are other fish that taste just as good and have a way lesser impact on the environment, then we’re doing our job.
Sx3: It seems like an awesome way to show people that eating sustainably caught seafood isn’t too complicated.
Max the Wizard: Yea, that’s the idea – One of the biggest challenges is simply educating people about what the best fish choice is. Take grouper for example: imported grouper caught in Central or South America may not be caught by a sustainable method, but it’s a little cheaper, whereas Gulf caught grouper might be a little more sustainable, but it’s going to be a little more expensive. We’ll really see a huge benefit if we can make the decision process easier and show people that spending a little more money for sustainable seafood can really help the ocean.
Sx3: Speaking of education, what are some of the best ways to sift through all the information out there and learn how to make better choices?
Max the Wizard: There’s so much information online now – great apps and websites from the Monterey Bay Aquarium and the Blue Ocean Institute are really easy to navigate. Just taking five minutes to educate yourself can make a world of a difference.
Sx3: So can we be wizards too?
Max the Wizard: No, you can eat sustainable seafood, but I’m still the only Sustainable Seafood Wizard.
So even if we can’t be Wizards, we’re going to be Ocean Advocates, and being an Ocean Advocate means making informed, responsible choices about our seafood. Check out our Pinterest page for some really great links about how to choose seafood that makes a happy, healthy ocean. Its like we always say, if you want to eat seafood tomorrow, make smart choices today.
How will you love the ocean today?
~The Ocean Tribe