UBC has announced it will purchase and offer only 100 per cent Ocean Wise recommended sustainable seafood beginning July 1, 2019. The change will include every food service location on both the UBC Vancouver and UBC Okanagan campuses, excluding franchises. According to UBC executive chef and culinary director David Speight, this transition has been in the making for some time.
“UBC spends approximately $1.2 million on seafood annually, and is one of the largest bulk seafood purchasers in British Columbia,” says Speight. “We’ve been a great Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise Seafood program partner since 2008 and for the past five years we have committed to ensuring all of our fresh seafood follows that program’s recommendations. However we still purchased a significant amount of non-recommended frozen seafood. We have committed to changing that. ”
UBC Food Services primarily buys seafood from large-scale food service providers that offer Ocean Wise recommended seafood, but is committed to additionally working with local, small-scale and family-owned fish mongers who follow sustainable fishing practices.
“There are many small fishing operations up and down B.C.’s coast that cannot invest the time and resources into obtaining certification, even though they are practicing sustainable harvesting and fishing,” says Speight. “Through our commitment, we’ll explore pathways to evolve our purchasing decisions to ensure smaller local business are part of the solution.”
UBC Food Services also plans to incorporate more diversity into the seafood dishes offered on campus, working with suppliers to source species that are less common while challenging UBC’s culinary staff to create delicious dishes from them. Broadening the varieties of seafood offered on campus will help offset the higher costs of buying exclusively from sustainable sources, and support healthier water-based ecosystems by maintaining biodiversity.
“Most universities in Canada are public institutions with significant food purchasing power that have influence on the food industry. Collectively, we have a responsibility to creat change, particularly when it comes to how we use earth’s natural resources,” says Andrew Parr, managing director of UBC student housing and hospitality services.
“UBC is committed to doing what it can to help restore the balance in our oceans. We challenge other universities in Canada to move away from companies involved in over-fishing, by-catch or unsustainable fishing practices, and towards those businesses working to conserve our water through sustainable fishing.”
According to Kai Chan, professor at UBC’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, if an organization of UBC’s size can make sustainable seafood a financially viable and healthy choice, so can everyone else.
“Oceans account for more than 70 per cent of our planet’s surface, and climate change and human consumption are altering aquatic ecosystems drastically,” says Chan. “Eating seafood is the main way we interact with the oceans, and buying seafood sustainably is a great first step to a responsible relationship with our planet’s ecosystems. Through this bold commitment, UBC is showing it can be done at a large scale. It’s time for seafood buyers everywhere to do the right thing and follow suit.”