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Chefs pledge to save our seafood

Will high-profle chefs make this fish -- a sardine -- more alluring to the American public? (James M. Thresher for The Washington Post)

More than two dozen celebrity chefs have pledged to ban endangered and overfished seafood from their menus.

The star-powered pantheon of chefs, which includes Food Network star Alton Brown and Rick Bayless of Frontera Grill in Chicago, promise not to serve items from the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch red or "avoid" list. The chefs also hope to educate their peers and the public about overfishing and to introduce new dishes that make sustainable but less popular fish, such as sardines, more palatable to American consumers.

The new Save Our Seafood campaign is being launched in conjunction with the aquarium's latest report that indicates improving prospects for securing a sustainable seafood supply and protecting ocean ecosystems.

The report also identifies a “Super Green” list of wild and farmed seafood items that are both good for human health and are produced in ways that protect ocean ecosystems.

Culinary professionals have had broad success in previous efforts. In 1998, 27 high-profile chefs such as Rick Moonen, then at Oceana in New York, joined an environmental campaign called Give Swordfish a Break and agreed to take the endangered North Atlantic swordfish off their menus to reduce demand. Within six months, more than 100 chefs had joined, and President Bill Clinton called for a ban on the sale and import of smaller swordfish. International quotas were adopted in 1999. By 2002, a scientific report declared that the swordfish population had reached 94 percent recovery. A similar campaign also raised awareness about the dangerously trendy Chilean sea bass.

The Save Our Seafood campaign aims to do the same for 63 types of seafood including Atlantic cod and halibut, freshwater eel, orange roughy, red snapper and bluefin tuna. (See the full list of fish and shellfish on Seafood Watch's "avoid" list.)

Other chefs onboard include: Moonen, now of RM seafood in Las Vegas, Washington's own Barton Seaver (of Blue Ridge), Susan Spicer of Bayona in New Orleans, Michelle Bernstein of Michy's in Miami and Fedele Bauccio, chief executive of Bon Appétit Management, which runs 400 cafes and restaurants across the country. (Bauccio is a dedicated advocate for sustainable food – on land and in the oceans. See my April story about his campaign to improve workers' rights in Florida tomato fields. His efforts helped make possible a deal between workers and Bon Appetit's parent company Compass, McDonalds Corp. and others )

-- Jane Black

By Jane Black  |  October 20, 2009; 12:00 PM ET
Categories:  Sustainable Food  | Tags: Jane Black, seafood  
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