New Year's has come and gone. Nevertheless, I feel compelled to raise my glass to Legal Sea Foods and its President and CEO Roger Berkowitz.
On Monday, Jan. 24, the Boston-based seafood chain's flagship location will host a meal featuring only "blacklisted" seafoods. That is, fisheries the Monterey Bay Aquarium and their ilk have called on chefs and patrons to boycott.
The problem with the blacklisted fisheries, as the organizers point out and most fishermen know already, is that their categorization often ignores the complexity of the oceans. The justifications for blacklisting (or greenlisting!) are varied, sometimes politically influenced, and even based on old data or perceptions.
The menu will feature tiger shrimp, cod cheeks and hake, all of which were carefully chosen to represent sustainable fisheries that are labeled as seafoods to avoid.
I am all for chefs and consumers making informed decisions about what they buy and eat or serve. And that includes those daring enough to reach beyond the greenwashing and ask why.
The average consumer will see Monterey Bay Aquarium's red (avoid) list and refuse to eat what's on it without questioning the methodology that landed the fishery on the list. Can we blame them? The list is put out by a well-respected aquarium.
But what they, and many activists, fail to understand is that buying Northeast cod will not empty the oceans of cod. U.S. fishery management does not respond to demand; it responds to biomass (ideally).
A fixed amount of cod enters the marketplace every year. The result of buying and eating cod is that the limited supply will simply be more valuable. What happens then? The fishermen who fish for it might actually be able to make their boat payments with their quota! Is that so harrowing a prospect?
So if you can't be at the Legal Sea Foods blacklisted dinner, I encourage you to pick a red- or blacklisted U.S. fishery to dine on the evening of Jan. 24. And join me in a toast to the future of wild American seafood.
Thank you for your time.
Editor in Chief, National Fisherman