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Dispatch From Monterey: Seafood Action Cards

One of the "become aware" cards, printable from the Web. It's meant to be folded; that's why the upper-right-hand side is upside down. (Monterey Bay Aquarium)

You've probably seen, maybe even used, seafood pocket guides, the little cards that fit in your wallet and tell you to avoid farmed salmon and bluefin tuna and what to buy instead. But here at California's Monterey Bay Aquarium, where I'm attending a sustainable-seafood conference, I discovered another card with a different mission.

It's called a (pdf alert) "become aware" card and allows you to give positive or negative feedback to a restaurant. On the sushi version, you check one of two boxes, either "I noticed that some of the seafood you sell is caught or farmed in ways that harm the ocean" or "Thank you for offering ocean-friendly seafood. I look forward to recommending your business to my family and friends." The card also provides space for you to write further notes about what you thought of the menu.

There are also versions for non-sushi restaurants (shown above), but they don't yet provide room for notes.

The cards aren't new. The aquarium has offered "become aware" cards for seafood restaurants since 2006, and it introduced the sushi version last October. Until now, however, the organization has focused its outreach on a group it calls advocates, consumers who care deeply about these issues and commit to spreading the word in their community. But, says communications manager Alison Barratt, the aquarium is realizing that the cards are a way for everyone to leave discreet feedback.

Barratt says the aquarium gets lots of calls from restaurants that have received the cards. The chefs usually don't understand and want to know what they've done wrong. Barratt says she encourages chefs to fax over their menus for constructive criticism.

Do you like the idea? Or does it strike you as the formation of sushi police? Let us know.

-- Jane Black

By Jane Black  |  May 15, 2009; 10:00 AM ET
Categories:  Sustainable Food  | Tags: Jane Black, seafood, sushi  
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My mind immediately turns to all the other cards that could be useful:
"become ambiance aware: please turn the lights down."
"become detail oriented: please polish the lipstick smear off the washed glasses"
"become order aware: please write it down if you can't remember it."

Posted by: metrocurean | May 15, 2009 10:27 AM | Report abuse

Thanks for the post! I first saw it in print in Food section. Thanks for the link to the new card, too, because I don't see it on the Monterey Bay Aquarium site.

I have used the pocket guides in restaurants and I use the info to guide my purchases at grocery stores. I might use the new Action Cards in restaurants, because leaving a card is not very confrontational. It's probably a good idea to give restaurants feedback in some way, so they know we appreciate sustainable seafood choices.

To find green info for the DC region, check out my site,


Posted by: dankulpinski | May 21, 2009 10:11 PM | Report abuse

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