Red Lobster just announced a partnership with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, which should further the seafood restaurant chain’s stated promise of only buying seafood from trusted, sustainable sources.
The Seafood Watch program offers education and recommendations for a growing number of restaurants, food retailers, co-ops, and zoos, among them Whole Foods, Chopt, and the Canyon Ranch Spas. Notable among the program’s offerings are its online database and corresponding app of seafood sourced responsibly and catches to avoid, as well as recommended replacements for the latter.
Searching the data for “tuna,” for example, brings up purchase recommendations based on region and fishing method, as well as what to say “no thanks” to:
You can then drill down into specific recommendations, which are categorized as “Best Choices,” “Good Alternatives,” and “Avoid.” Tuna shows up in all three categories. By comparison, grouper is trickier to source sustainably, with only “Good Alternatives” and “Avoid” categories available.
The Seafood Watch program also includes the Slavery Risk Tool, so buyers can understand not just where their seafood came from, but also the conditions under which it was caught. Because so far as seafood is concerned, being “environmentally responsible” is as much about protecting the workers as it is about protecting the planet.
As one of the largest seafood-buying restaurants in the world, Red Lobster could, through this partnership, become a model for ethical, environmentally friendly seafood purchasing. That’s at least the company’s hope: “Because of our size and scale, we can use our influence to drive positive change in the industry and lead the way in sustainable and responsible seafood sourcing,” said Red Lobster’s CEO, Kim Lopdrup, in a statement.
Nor is this the company’s first foray into sustainable seafood. As part of its 50th Anniversary celebrations, Red Lobster announced in January its Seafood with Standards commitment, which supports fishing and farming practices with eco-certification. They even ran a Superbowl ad highlighting their new stance on sustainable seafood.
As of summer 2016, 90 percent of the world’s seafood stocks were overfished. Of late, we’ve seen efforts to address this, from programs like Monterey Bay’s to the rise of plant-based seafood companies like Good Catch Foods. And though they don’t yet, I imagine larger corporations like Red Lobster, who have significant reach with mainstream consumers, will eventually offer a combination of sustainably sourced and plant-based seafood on their menus. At any rate, the two things combined would make for a good catch of the day.