Aquaculture has a story – and no one to tell it

Published on
October 30, 2015

When it comes to storytelling, having a good storyteller can be as imperative as the story itself.

And as far as good storytellers are concerned – especially when it comes to seafood sustainability and aquaculture – Barton Seaver (pictured) and Ned Bell are as formidable as it gets. Throughout their keynote address during the 2015 GOAL Conference this past week, both the recovering chef (Seaver) and the practicing chef (Bell) were adamant that the aquaculture sector had an important story to tell consumers – it just hasn’t resonated yet.

“As an industry, we have not been able to sell the positives. Just as health is not defined by the absence of disease, sustainability cannot be defined by the absence of negative impact,” said Seaver, an author and prominent seafood advocate. “Our purpose in sustainability is not just to minimize our impact on environments. Our purpose is equally to maximize the impact that environments have on us. It is my belief that … our purpose is to sustain enduring, thriving human communities. That is what sustainability, I believe, will mean in five to ten years.”

How does this relate to aquaculture? “It’s the story that you tell,” Seaver said, as well as “the story that you sell.”

Right now, there are several organizations – such as the Seafood Nutrition Partnership and the National Fisheries Institute – putting the message out about aquaculture. However, there is a lot more to be done, said Seaver, particularly on the part of aquaculture companies and seafood farmers themselves. First up, it’s time to embrace the farmer narrative that aquaculturalists have earned.

“Your story is one of people, just as it is on farms. I think you as an industry need to make rightful claim to the halo that has long hung over the heads of agrarians,” advised Seaver.

Bell – executive chef for the Four Seasons in Vancouver and the popular seafood restaurant YEW located on the hotel’s premises – noted that there are actions foodservice members and chefs need to take on behalf of telling aquaculture’s story as well.

“As chefs, we have this opportunity and responsibility to celebrate aquaculture,” said Bell.

“Wild protein is the last special thing that we have on this earth. But as we continue to overfish our world’s oceans, how are we going to replace the protein needs? With you, with aquaculture. And you need chefs to tell your stories alongside you,” he added.

If seafood can come together collectively for the sake of aquaculture, Bell can conceive of a future where farmed fish is treated with the same esteemed regard as its wilder counterparts.

“I look ahead to an opportunity when aquaculture is thought in the same way that the last wild protein that we have on this planet is thought of,” Bell concluded.

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