For those who live in Miami, we know this city for being more than a beautiful vacation destination and thriving nightlife. TIME magazine once called it the “Capital of Latin America” and as such we are known for being a center for commerce, entertainment, pop culture, and the arts. But is that all we can be known for? Unlike cities such as Portland, Los Angeles, Boston, Seattle and New York, Miami is not known for leading the conversation on sustainable seafood.
Miami’s rich cultural diversity provides fertile ground for providing remarkable culinary experiences. Miami is a culinary fusion incubator, and this culinary scene reflects the city’s diversity. Asian, Caribbean, South American, Mediterranean and North American flavors enhance seafood dishes around the city. Furthermore, Miami’s location deems it a major U.S. entry port for imported seafood (fresh and frozen) and provides its locals and tourist alike with access to seafood choices that would not be available otherwise.
Miami also offers a variety of seafood festivals and access to popular fish markets. So, if we love seafood, and we eat seafood, why are we not talking about sustainable seafood? Why are we not leading the conversation on sustainable seafood? Outside of retailers like Walmart, Publix, and Whole Foods which have strong seafood sustainability commitments, and a few restaurants like Area 31 in the Epic Hotel, Downtown Miami; The Oceanaire Seafood Room, Downtown Miami; Ireland Steakhouse in NW Miami; and La Mar by Gaston Acurio in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel; I am not sure why we are not truly engaging our audience to learn more about sustainable seafood.
Most of us like to focus on eating local and fresh. But seafood is a global experience and many of our seafood choices are not readily available locally. As of 2011, it was estimated that 29% of fish stocks were overfished and only 10% of global wild caught seafood now comes from fisheries engaged in the Marine Stewardship Council’s (MSC) certification program (highest sustainability standard). These statistics are alarming when we take into account the environmental impact that most of the seafood we consume has.
This is where the Sea Delight Ocean Fund is looking to make a difference. We are a local non-profit organization which focuses on global fisheries that need improvement. We work closely with non-government organizations (NGOs) to develop Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) that follow the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solution FIP guidelines. These Fishery Improvement Projects (FIPs) provide the building blocks needed for a fishery to make substantial changes geared towards its improvement, better management, healthier stocks, and MSC certification.
WHY SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD? Sustainable seafood is seafood either from fished or farmed sources that can maintain or increase production in the future without jeopardizing the ecosystems from which it was acquired. Personally, I like “responsibly sourced” or “responsible seafood.” To fish or source “responsibly” means we are not out to overfish certain species and destroy the marine ecosystems in which they live during this process. This is why retailers and restaurants play such an important role. They are in constant contact with the end consumer and they are able to spread the knowledge and provide seafood choices which we deem “responsible” or “sustainable.” They are able to engage their consumers in learning more about these seafood products and use their purchasing power to drive change and improvement in the fisheries their favorite seafood is sourced from.
We can all agree that it is a complex issue, and knowledge is power. Through the Sea Delight Ocean Fund’s annual Taste of the Sea we are aiming to create awareness of not only the work we do in global fisheries, but also partner with local organizations and provide them with a space to educate attendees about the work that they do in Florida and abroad. In last year’s event we partnered with the Loggerhead Marinelife Center, the Guy Harvey Ocean Foundation, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), the University of Miami Shark Research, the Florida International University Medina Aquarius Program, the Coastal Steward, Bonefish & Tarpon Trust, and Shark Team One.
In the words of Jacques Yves Cousteau, “The sea, the great unifier, is man’s only hope. Now, as never before, the old phrase has a literal meaning: we are all in the same boat.” This is the time for Miami to be more than the center for commerce, entertainment, pop culture, and the arts. It is time for Miami to take leadership and spearhead the conversation about sustainable seafood in the southeast, and Sea Delight Ocean Fund’s Taste of the Sea can be the starting point to do so.