When purveyors of fish whose businesses are located on an island surrounded by the Pacific Ocean are short on knowledge about the sustainability of their products, it raises eyebrows and a red flag. A recent survey completed by students of the University of Victoria uncovered an informational gap.
(Following is the announcement from the University of Victoria)
Are Victoria-area consumers being given enough information about the sustainability of the seafood they purchase at local restaurants and grocery stores? A team of students from the University of Victoria’s School of Environmental Studies decided to find out as a class project.
The survey was part of marine ecologist Dr. John Volpe’s sustainable fisheries class, where he asked students to assess the seafood served or sold in 27 restaurants and 10 grocery stores in Greater Victoria.
“I wanted to give the students an opportunity to learn about sustainability and participatory research,” says Volpe, who notes that the ocean and its bounty largely remain a mystery to most consumers. “This presents a serious challenge for those wishing to support ecologically sensitive merchants.”
At the restaurants and grocery stores, students gathered information from labels or menus to answer three key questions: What seafood is being sold? Where is the seafood coming from? And how are those products being caught or farmed?
Back in the classroom, the students analyzed the data and applied the green, yellow and red rating system developed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program to determine the proportion of sustainable and unsustainable seafood being sold at each establishment.
The results suggest that less than one-third of seafood products surveyed in Victoria restaurants and grocery stores fit generally accepted green or “best choice” criteria.
“There are some Victoria establishments, particularly in the restaurant industry, that are setting high standards for the seafood they put on their menu,” stresses student Jenna Stoner. “But of particular concern is that information on environmental sustainability is generally not being made available to the consumer.”
“The mission to the students was to navigate the waters of sustainable seafood as a consumer,” says John Volpe. “They came away with first-hand knowledge of how challenging this can be and, in many cases, how far short we fall.”
To help Victoria-area consumers make more informed choices, the Victoria Seafood Audit project has made its data, analysis and conclusions available under “People and projects” at http://web.uvic.ca/~serg/