How Denver is tackling sustainable seafood in a land-locked city

Written by: editorial / 303

As fish consumption gains popularity in health trends, the world’s population is eating seafood at a rate that cannot be sustained by the world’s oceans. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reported earlier this year that since 1961 the average annual growth in global fish consumption has been twice as high as population growth. To help combat the exponential decrease in fish stocks, consumers should focus on supporting sustainable seafood – both fished and farmed – to ensure the oceans’ stocks return to a healthy level.

The first step is understanding how seafood can be sustainable in a land-locked area such as Denver. Ocean Wise defines sustainable seafood as “species that are caught or farmed in a way that ensures the long-term health and stability of that species, as well as the greater marine ecosystem.” Resources such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch give consumers the information they need to consume seafood responsibly. Seafood Watch ranks the sustainability of seafood options for each region in the US (click here for a downloadable guide for Colorado). But this still puts a lot of pressure on consumers to research before purchasing.

Luckily Colorado is home to a few incredible aquaculture farms and seafood suppliers. Based in Denver, both Seattle Fish Co. and Northeast Seafood supply Denver chefs and restaurants with fresh, sustainable seafood. Seattle Fish Co. recently celebrated 100 years of bringing the best fish to our city. In August they hosted a symposium to gather some of the city’s leaders in the seafood industry to discuss the future of Denver’s seafood.

Along with a summit hosted in October by the James Beard Foundation, chefs and fish suppliers are continuously working to ensure the city’s access to sustainable seafood.This trend is country-wide, but the landlocked city of Denver is becoming a leader in the national effort. Chefs, restaurant owners, aquaculture farmers and distributors are committed to reducing Colorado’s impact on our global fish stocks and the ocean’s environment.

As Denver’s food scene develops, so does the city’s desire for great seafood. And while it’s difficult to see our effect on our oceans in comparison to port cities like Seattle, our consumption of seafood majorly impacts the oceans and fish stocks. The best way to consume sustainable food is by eating locally from small farms and ranches, but it’s difficult to consume local fish in a land-locked state such as Colorado.

There are a few local aquaculture farms such as Frontier Trout Ranch and Colorado Catch that use sustainable practices to reduce or completely eliminate waste. But these two local farms can only satisfy your trout and striped bass desires. Fortunately, many leaders in the Denver food industry are working with suppliers to increase the availability of sustainable seafood – selecting fish from trusted fishermen and fisheries following ethical practices around the world.

Chefs don’t have to know it all to source products from trusted fisheries and farms. The James Beard Foundation(JBF) helps restaurants evaluate the sources of seafood products with their Smart Catch program. In October, JBF invited some of the city’s favorite chefs to a Sustainable Seafood Issue Summit. Chefs had an opportunity to talk with the foundation’s sustainable seafood partners, including Australis Barramundi, Blue Ocean Mariculture, Riverence Trout, Skuna Bay Salmon and Verlasso Salmon. Members from the nonprofit and advocacy community were also part of the conversation, such as Inland Ocean Coalition and the Environmental Defense Fund.

Attendees discussed the challenges that Denver faces with sustainable seafood compared to the rest of the country as well as challenges that individuals face in sourcing sustainably for their restaurants. Vice President of Impact for JBF, Katherine Miller, explained that they wanted attendees to have a forum for “a discussion about all the regulations, all the perceptions, all the misperceptions around what we need to do to diversify seafood action.”

This summit was an opportunity to hear from the chef community, but also to offer Denver chefs resources to make sustainable sourcing easier. The conversation continued as representatives from the JBF explained their Smart Catch program. Designed as an educational program, Smart Catch helps chefs diversify their menus both in seafood choices and sourcing options and trains and challenges chefs to be environmentally responsible in sourcing seafood.

Utilizing data from Monterey Bay Aquarium, NOAA and Oceana, the program also makes information available for consumers to know more about the source of their seafood and discover chefs that are dedicated to sustainability practices. A full list of restaurants committed to the Smart Catch program can be found here.

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