Top French chefs shun bluefin tuna

Chefs at the luxury hotel chain Relais et Châteaux have committed to procuring sustainable seafood and will ban bluefin tuna from their menus in 2010.

At a meeting in late November, members of the 475-unit hotel and upscale restaurant network, which spans 57 countries, signed up to six commitments that collectively address overfishing. In Europe, half of all seafood is consumed in restaurants.

As awareness of overfishing continues to rise worldwide, seafood buyers are increasingly participating in initiatives that build sustainability into their business models. Relais & Châteaux members’ six-point commitment plan is one such example of this growing awareness.

Headlining the commitments is the agreement by network’s chefs to ban bluefin tuna from their kitchens beginning 1 January. They join an increasing number of top restaurants in France that are removing the species from the menu. For example, mulit-Michelin-starred French chef Alain Ducasse took bluefin tuna off of all of his menus about 18 months ago.

The move by Relais & Châteaux members is on the heels of the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna’s decision last month to cut Europe’s 2010 bluefin tuna quota to 13,500 metric tons from 22,000 metric tons in 2009.

In addition to the quota reduction, the fishing season for purse seiners will be reduced to only one month in 2010, from 15 May to 15 June. This shorter season can no longer be extended in case of inclement weather. As an additional precautionary measure, it was that agreed that, if scientists were to detect a serious risk of stock collapse, the eastern Atlantic and Mediterranean bluefin tuna fishery may be suspended completely.

Outlining the six commitments, Relais & Châteaux members agreed unanimously to adopt a sustainable seafood purchasing policy and to stop serving threatened or overfished species, gradually removing them from their menus throughout 2010 and communicating their decisions to their customers. In doing so, they will work with the international sustainable seafood program the Seafood Choices Alliance.

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