Posts Tagged ‘Santa Monica Seafood’

Colorful dish of sustainable seafood

Whether you are a consumer, supplier, distributor or vendor of seafood, making sustainable choices is important for the environment and the industry.  By making sustainable choices, we ensure that seafood can be consumed and enjoyed in the future.

When the FCEC team heard about Santa Monica Seafood, the largest seafood distributor in the Southwest United States, while doing a feature on seafood mislabeling, we were excited to have found a company that was as passionate about seafood sustainability as weare about protecting the public’s health.

Since its founding in 1939 as a family owned business, Santa Monica Seafood (SMS) has always sourced their products responsibly.  Today, in their fourth generation of family ownership, the company has many programs and systems in place to encourage vendors and customers to offer sustainable options and increase understanding of environmental responsibility.

Sustainability Ratings

Santa Monica Seafood has worked closely with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program to apply color coded ratings to their products.  Like Seafood Watch’s guide, Santa Monica Seafood’s products are coded in an easy to understand system: Green for Best Choice, Yellow for Good Alternative and Red for Avoid.

Two additional colors are also present: Grey for products that have not been ranked yet and Blue, or SMS Approved, for products that have been vetted by Santa Monica Seafood or another trusted source.

Santa Monica Seafood works with other organizations, such as the Marine Stewardship Council, FishWise, SeaChoice, New England Aquarium and the Blue Ocean Institute to assign a Blue rating to products.  The Blue rating is used to encourage specific suppliers whose products have been rated Red by Seafood Watch, but who demonstrate a commitment to improvement, to move up in color category.

These sustainability rankings are included on Santa Monica Seafood’s invoices.  For each order, a Responsible Sourcing Score is calculated based on the number of pounds of seafood purchased and each product’s rating.

Red List Alternatives

A part of Santa Monica Seafood’s website that is helpful for consumers and vendors alike is its Red List Alternatives page.  This page lists suggested substitutes that are similar in taste or texture for seafood that have received a Red rating by Seafood Watch.

For example, the Rockfish, also known as the Pacific Red Snapper, has suggested substitutes of farm raised tilapia or farm raised striped bass.

Seafood Product Guides

Another helpful series of materials are Santa Monica Seafood’s product guides; they not only list the sustainability of a product, but also any other detail you might want to know.  From origin, method of catch and season to stocking and storage methods, you will find it all in alphabetical order within these product guides.

Slide of Santa Monica Seafood Responsible Seafood Sourcing

Responsible Sourcing Vendor Partner Program

Finally, a program unique to Santa Monica Seafood is its Responsible Sourcing Vendor Partner (RSVP) Program; it funds valuable work that educates and engages the company and its customers on sustainability issues.  Part of the funds is invested in identifying and verifying new and existing suppliers’ commitment to sustainable practices, while other funds go toward international organizations.  One organization is the National Fisheries Institute Crab Council, which is an alliance of companies that assess the Blue Swimming Crab population and efforts to manage it in the Philippines and Indonesia.

As a company with a long-standing commitment to high quality seafood and responsible sourcing and as a leader and educator in the industry, we think Santa Monica Seafood will go far in ensuring a better future for seafood—and people.  We encourage you to read more about the company by visiting their website and subscribing to their blog.

Let us know what you think about Santa Monica Seafood’s sustainable practices by leaving a comment below.

Photos via Santa Monica Seafood on Flickr.

Seafood on the menuHave you ever bought fish from a market or restaurant?  Even though the fish may be labeled on the package or the menu, how do you know you’re getting what it says?

According to Oceana, an ocean advocacy organization, seafood is one of the most popular foods in the United States, but consumers are often not given information about where their seafood comes from.

Santa Monica Seafood reported in a blog post that last year, in the state of Florida alone, 186 restaurants were cited for mislabeling fish.  In February, NOAA reported that two Arizona residents pleaded guilty to 13 felony offenses for purchasing and re-selling illegally imported Vietnamese catfish and Lake Victoria perch as grouper, sole or snapper.

In fact, recent studies have shown that seafood may be mislabeled as often as 25 to 70 percent of the time for fish like red snapper, Atlantic cod and wild salmon.

Seafood mislabeling is definitely a growing problem, and it harms people and the environment for many reasons.

Image via Let Ideas Compete on Flickr

Sustainability

If you’re using Seafood Watch’s guide to purchase sustainably farmed or caught fish, there is still a chance of consuming an endangered species.  Marc from The Ethicurean thinks it’s possible that diners who are ordering yellowfin tuna may be served the ‘red-listed’ bluefin tuna, instead.

Many markets also abundantly sell red snapper, a highly endangered species.  This isn’t because fisheries are catching the fish; a report in Nature finds that fish counters are actually stocking a variety of species as red snapper.  By making it seem that the supply of red snapper is plentiful, markets are not communicating to the public that this fish’s population is in dire condition.

Health

The two Arizona residents who relabeled Vietnamese catfish and Lake Victoria perch inadvertently introduced health risks to the American public.  Substances called malachite green and Enrofloxin were found in the illegally imported fish; both of these are considered health hazards and prohibited from being used in U.S. food products.

Money

Santa Monica Seafood also suggests a financial reason for seafood mislabeling: some restaurant owners, chefs and managers may make a conscious decision to mislabel cheaper species for more expensive ones.  Food prices continue to rise, tempting some vendors to fraud the consumer and save some money.

So, that pound of grouper you burnt a hole in the pocket for may actually be tilapia in disguise.

Protect Yourself from Seafood Mislabeling

What can you do to reduce the chance of bringing home mislabeled seafood?

What fillet is this?1. Know your seafood – Santa Monica Seafood encourages you to familiarize yourself with the different fish in the sea.  Work with fishermen and trusted suppliers to learn how to tell the difference between species–even when they’re filleted.

2. Be wary of low prices – Is that chunk of sole unusually cheap?  The South Florida Sun Sentinel warns that you may be buying mislabeled seafood if its price is significantly lower than average.

3. Stick to seafood with sustainable labels – Voluntary certification programs exist that ensure seafood under their labels are accurately named and sustainably farmed or harvested.  Get started with sustainable labels by reading our post on Whole Foods Market and its easy-to-understand system.

The seafood industry can be tricky to navigate, but by staying informed, you can make sure that you’re buying fish that are good for the environment and your health.

For more information about seafood mislabeling in the industry and its effects on people, the environment and the economy, read Oceana’s latest report: “Bait and Switch: How Seafood Fraud Hurts Our Oceans, Our Wallets and Our Health

Have you ever come across mislabeled seafood?  Tell us about it by commenting below.

Image via Island Vittles on Flickr