James Beard Foundation's "Smart Catch" program announces expansion

The James Beard Foundation announced the nationwide expansion of a pilot project encouraging greater use of sustainable seafood in U.S. restaurants on Monday, 5 June at the SeaWeb Seafood Summit in Seattle, Washington.

Smart Catch was created by chefs as a way to increase the sustainability of the end of the seafood supply chain, according to JBF. It began in 2015 as a pilot project with nearly 50 local chefs representing 80 Seattle restaurants.

According to the foundation, the expansion of the program includes the addition of more than 60 chefs representing over 100 restaurants, including Mario Batali’s Batali and Bastianich Hospitality group of restaurants, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger’s Border Grill restaurants in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Bill Telepan and Oceana in New York City, and Ryan Prewitt and Pesche in New Orleans.

“The future of the world’s oceans depends on all of us choosing sustainable seafood,” said James Deutsch, conservation director for Paul Allen, Microsoft’s co-founder and philanthropist, the organization that developed the program. “James Beard Foundation’s announcement of their national rollout of Smart Catch represents a giant step in that direction.”

Smart Catch addresses “the many barriers to getting sustainable seafood on a diner’s plate,” according to a statement from the James Beard Foundation. The challenges include obtaining reliable sources of sustainable seafood, chef training, and consumer awareness. 

Smart Catch’s sustainability criteria is based on both Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program and NOAA Fish Stock Sustainability Index. 

“The criteria is based on wild and farmed seafood production and includes the health and abundance of fish stocks and impacts on the surrounding environment,” the James Beard Foundation said.

The restaurants are provided sustainability assessments powered by FishChoice.com, training materials, menu consultations, and guidance on working with suppliers.

Chefs who commit to serve more than 80 percent sustainable seafood earn the Smart Catch emblem for their restaurant, and those who achieve more than 80 percent are designated as a Smart Catch Leader. 

“Chefs have the influence to educate our palates and our views,” said Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation. “Through Smart Catch, they are becoming new environmental heroes, as they use their influence to lead industry efforts to maintain healthy, sustainable food sources both now and for future generations.”


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