Q&A: Richard Boot, FishChoice
By April Forristall, SeafoodSource.com assistant editor
Published on 02 August, 2009
Set to go live 4 August, FishChoice is a non-profit, free service started by Richard Boot to provide buyers with the most current information about the most sustainable seafood species, regions, fishing methods and farm types.
On the Web site, seafood buyers and suppliers can search a constantly updated database of sustainable seafood products that includes origins, catch or farming method and sustainability rankings. Supplier names, location and contact information is provided along with minimum order requirements. Users can call suppliers directly or contact them through FishChoice.
To create the site, FishChoice collaborated with the Blue Ocean Institute, New England Aquarium, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program, Marine Stewardship Council, Sea Choice and FishWise to gather up-to-date, credible, scientific information.
SeafoodSource caught up with Boot just before the launch of FishChoice.
Forristall: How did you first get involved in the sustainable seafood movement?
Boot: I was working in California [in the restaurant and hospitality industries] and customers started coming in with the sustainable seafood wallet cards from [places like] Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program. Then I worked with fishermen and fishing associations [in Morro Bay, Calif.] to help bring their products to the retail marketplace.
How did you develop the FishChoice concept?
There are great resources out there for consumers, like the wallet cards, etc. FishChoice differs because we actually find the products that meet those rankings. It’s a simple solution for the commercial buyer.
The great thing about FishChoice is that it’s really offering [suppliers] a platform to get their information to [buyers] who want to find the most sustainable products out there. Another great thing is that a lot [of the suppliers] are American, and being able to support the U.S. fish farming industry is a wonderful thing right now.
We have run into cases where users can’t find the product they’re looking for, but the great thing is that they can request a search through FishChoice and we can find the most sustainable vendors.
What has the response to the Web site been so far?
We’ve done very valuable testing with corporate chefs and retail buyers; 35 different commercial-level buyers [have tested the site]. All of them have been very excited. I even had one retailer call me and say, “We need this up and running, it’s going to make our lives a lot easier.” We’re very optimistic.
What part do the NGOs and SeaFare play in FishChoice?
There are two different types that actually rank species, the NGOs and Marine Stewardship Council. The NGOS give FishChoice their most current list of rankings, going back through every report that they’ve done, 375 species long as opposed to the customer-driven cards that are available. The MSC provides information about the companies that have been certified for their label and we reach out to gather information about the products. Sea Fare [of Seattle] helps us find the actual companies that meet the criteria of the NGOs.
What are your thoughts on how the sustainable seafood movement is progressing?
The movement is moving very quickly right now. I’m very optimistic of the progress and the people involved. One step has been the formation of the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions. We’re creating a toolbox for sustainability. FishChoice is power added to that toolbox with just the click of a mouse.