UNITED STATES—The nonprofit culinary arts James Beard Foundation (JBF) announced the launch of its seafood sustainability program, Smart Catch, on Monday, June 5. The program, which was created by chefs for chefs, aims to increase the sustainability of the seafood supply chain, according to the foundation’s website.
More than 60 chefs representing at least 100 restaurants from around the country have committed to the Seattle-based program. Smart Catch provides chefs with training and support, allowing them to serve fished or farmed seafood in environmentally responsible ways, according to the foundation.
More than 90 percent of fisheries around the world are either fully fished or overfished. The preservation of marine life carries more significance than ever, to ensure stable fishing stocks. Promoting options for sustainably farmed seafood have become increasingly important.
Smart Catch strives to increase the amount of sustainable seafood sold at restaurants by addressing challenges such as reliable sources, chef training, and consumer awareness. The program also seeks to improve seafood production around the world with the aid of the chef community.
“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.”
Several James Beard Award nominees and winners are among the chefs committed to Smart Catch, including Mario Batali’s Batali and Bastianich Hospitality group, Michael Cimarusti’s Providence in Los Angeles, Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger’s Border Grill restaurants in Los Angeles and Las Vegas, and Bill Telepan’s Oceana in New York City. Chefs Adonayy Fernandez and Matt Minzias of Pizzeria Mozza in Los Angeles and Newport Beach are also participating in the program, according to foundation officials.
“Chefs who commit to serve more than 80 percent sustainable seafood on their menus earn the Smart Catch emblem for their restaurant,” James Beard Foundation officials indicated. “Those who achieve more than 80 percent receive designation as a Smart Catch Leader.”
Chefs who earn the Smart Catch emblem can use their influence to promote food sustainability. Participating restaurants are provided with menu consultations, staff training materials, online sustainability assessments through FishChoice.com, and guidance toward making environmentally responsible seafood choices. Smart Catch’s sustainability criteria utilizes information from Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program and NOAA Fish Stock Sustainability Index and is based on wild and farmed seafood production.
Smart Catch was developed in Seattle in 2015 as a pilot project, by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen. Almost 50 local chefs representing 80 Seattle restaurants participated.
“The future of the world’s oceans depends on all of us choosing sustainable seafood,” said James Deutsch, conservation director for Allen. “James Beard Foundation’s announcement of their national rollout of Smart Catch represents a giant step in that direction. We couldn’t be more proud of the continued growth of this pioneering program we piloted in Seattle.”
James Beard was a champion of American cuisine who educated generations of food enthusiasts. The New York-based James Beard Foundation was established in 1986 to honor his memory, with programs including food industry awards, scholarships, and chef advocacy training. Its mission is to “celebrate, nurture, and honor chefs and other leaders making America’s food culture more delicious, diverse, and sustainable for everyone,” according to the website.
For more information on the Smart Catch program and participating restaurants, visit www.jamesbeard.org/smartcatch.