Our past coverage of sustainable seafood options for your restaurant focused on the two most common options available for you to serve: wild-caught, and farm-raised. But there are some instances where you may be interested in an alternative sustainable option. Are you a small farm-to-table restaurant featuring daily menu changes? A seasonal business located near a tightly-regulated fishery with annual changes to your catch regulations? Or perhaps you’re located in a tech or research economy and want to cater to the forward-thinking customer who is interested in cutting edge food, or maybe you want to offer a non-animal animal protein (you read that right!) on your otherwise vegetarian menu?
If any of this describes your business, then there are two unique alternatives you may want to consider: Community Supported Fisheries, and lab-grown fish.
Community Supported Fisheries (CSF)
A sub-category of sustainable wild-caught seafood, community supported fisheries go a step further by taking a more intentional role in the engagement between fisherman and consumer. Modeled on the more common community supported agriculture (CSA), CSFs help to mitigate issues with overfishing and by-catch by charging consumers before the fish is even caught, with the consumer agreeing to accept whatever fresh fish comes back that day.
See, the problem with by-catch works like this: A fisherman has a government-regulated quota of how much fish he can catch. Sometimes it’s a blanket amount across all species, and other times it’s regulated by the specific species (and can even include regulations around size, weight, gender, and season).
If, for example, a fisherman with a 1000 lb. quota goes out to sea one day and hauls up his net to find 400 lbs. of the lesser-known monkfish, he now has to make a difficult choice: Does he keep and report this 400 lbs. of monkfish, which he hopes he can sell for $5/lb, or does he throw it back — the fish now heavily stressed and quite possibly dead — in hopes of catching a more profitable (and currently overfished) 300 lbs. of cod that he knows he can sell at $7/lb?
By signing up for a CSF, you are helping the fisherman makes the more sustainable decision: He can say “I already have a buyer who has agreed to pay me for this monkfish. I’ll land this catch and come back out another day.”
CSFs are a great solution for situations like those listed in the introduction of this post, and you may want to consider buying into one if the model would fit your restaurant.
The future of fish is (almost) here! Lab-grown fish — either cultured from actual fish cells, or in some cases a vegetable-based protein formulated to mimic the taste and texture of fish — is right around the corner.
While it hasn’t quite made it to the market yet, there are a number of well-funded startups that claim their products will be on your dinner plate before the end of 2019. Those interested in being first in line to serve lab-grown, cruelty-free fish should reach out to the producers ASAP, because the future of fish is closer than you might think!