Canada’s Ocean Wise initiative expands

Published on
July 27, 2009

Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise initiative this week officially extended its sustainable seafood sourcing program to suppliers across Canada.

Until recently, Ocean Wise dealt chiefly with restaurant operators and retailers in western Canada.

“Now we are getting contacted, sometimes multiple times a day, by suppliers. Maybe it is more critical for them to become involved [in sustainable seafood], since there is a market for them now,” Mike McDermid, Ocean Wise program manager, told SeafoodSource.

Vancouver Aquarium launched Ocean Wise in 2005 to help buyers identify sustainable seafood species and suppliers. The program now works with 230 restaurant operators and retailers encompassing around 2,400 locations across Canada.

Programs such as Ocean Wise are growing, said McDermid, because buyers feel more comfortable purchasing products verified as sustainable by a third party, particularly with the negative publicity surrounding commercial fishing and aquaculture in recent years.

And the Ocean Wise program creates new markets for sustainably caught and raised seafood.

“If you are going to catch your fish with a hook and line, rather than a big net that dregs the bottom of the ocean, you are going to need to get more for your product,” said McDermid.

While Ocean Wise unofficially works with around 40 suppliers to ensure their products are sustainable — and matches those suppliers and distributors with buyers — the official launch of its supplier program means suppliers and distributors across Canada can now get involved.

“We just started working with a handful of companies in eastern Canada,” said McDermid. “We have an office in eastern Canada, and that is where we expect [the program] to grow.”

Additionally, approved Ocean Wise suppliers will be able to identify that their products are Ocean Wise-certified. Eventually, the Vancouver Aquarium would like approved suppliers to be able to use the Ocean Wise logo on product packaging.

“It is something we are looking at right now, including licensing agreements,” said McDermid.

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