Merriman's sustainable seafood initiative



Peter Merriman filleting a wahoo.

Courtesy of Merrimans

Is it possible that the next generation will never know the taste of wild fish? Some say yes: that by 2048, if current consumption and fishing practices continue, the world's major commercial stocks will collapse. By some accounts, more than 60 percent of the world's commercial fisheries are fully fished or overfished.

So what to do? Some, like Nico Chaize of Nico's at Pier 38, say Hawaii fisheries are some of the most regulated in the world and that there are plenty of fish around the Hawaiian channel. He's a big advocate of Hawaii's longline fleet.

Others take a market-driven approach: Alan Wong says as long as there is fish being sold, he will buy it.

There isn't one easy solution for seafood sustainability (or really, any sustainability, perhaps), and chefs are finding the waters difficult to navigate (watch Dan Barber's TED talk on the pursuit of sustainable fish).

Few chefs talk about seafood sustainability explicitly on their menus; Peter Merriman is one of Hawaii's first by announcing a sustainable seafood initiative in all his restaurants. From now until September 30, his restaurants will offer a "Sustainable Seafood Special," which pairs 3 ounces of wild Hawaii fish with 3 ounces of locally raised seafood or fish. Merriman believes to save wild seafood, we need to eat less of it, and to recognize responsible aquaculture. He also serves only day boat fish, caught locally through short line trolling methods. For the farmed seafood, he's sourcing Kauai shrimp and Hawaii Kampachi.

I emailed Merriman some questions on this initiative. His replies:

What standards are you using to define "sustainable fish"?
We at Merriman's are trying to do  our part to help wild fish populations by purchasing half the amount we would usually buy and supplement it with farm raised fish or seafood. We also follow the Monterey Bay Aquarium Guidelines. We are not only bringing attention to an important issue, but doing something about it.

If this is an important issue, why not institute it in all the restaurants permanently?
We hope to do that, but first we need to test the economic viability. Great conservation includes economic sustainability.

If I write about this initiative, and your preference for day boat fish over longline, I might get a comment from the Hawaii Seafood Council that the Hawaii longline fishing industry is well regulated and that it's also sustainable. Plus, it also supports local fishermen. How would you respond to this?
We prefer the quality of fish caught the same day. Long line boats stay out for many days, so the catch is not as fresh. Purchasing day boat fish, just less, allows us to support local fisherman and conserve at the same time.

merrimanshawaii.com
Visit Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch site for definitions of fishing methods (i.e. trolling and longlining).
 

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