Smart Catch will help track whether your dinner is environmentally sound.
Paul Allen has a new cause: the sustainability of fish, in the oceans and on your restaurant plate.
To that end, Allen has unveiled Smart Catch, a program certifying restaurants that commit to serving sustainable fish. To earn Smart Catch approval, restaurants will have to serve or be on their way to serving 90 percent sustainable fish. They’ll be listed on the website smartcatch.fish and receive a logo sticker to display in their window. (Establishments attaining 100 percent get a special label.)
Two-thirds of the seafood consumed in the U.S. is eaten in restaurants, so it’s a formidable task. But Smart Catch is starting somewhat small, with a few dozen restaurants in Seattle initially participating, including big fishhouses like Chandler’s Crabhouse and Ray’s Boathouse, as well as newer spots like the Walrus and the Carpenter, Sushi Kappo Tamura and Single Shot. (The current list is on the website.)
Ray’s Boathouse executive chef Paul Duncan says his menu was “92 percent compliant, right out of the gate” when it was assessed by Smart Catch, which uses Monterey Bay Aquarium and NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) data to rate the percentage of sustainable items on the menu, rather than the volume served. Because of the difficulty in sourcing all-sustainable calamari and shrimp at prices deemed acceptable to customers, Duncan says, Ray’s won’t be trying for the 100 percent category, but he’s continuing to “actively look” at such sourcing. (For Seattle’s most conscientious diners, the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch app lists sustainable seafood by species.)
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Smart Catch’s sustainability criteria include the health and abundance of fish stocks, impacts of fishing on fish habitats, volume of bycatch, and the effectiveness of fishery management systems. Issues such as slave labor in Thai fisheries and the environmental impact of fish farming are beyond the scope of the program. “There is always more we can be doing,” noted Vulcan spokeswoman Sian Wu, adding that with the potential to roll out nationally, Smart Catch could “make a huge impact.”
As part of the unveiling, Smart Catch will host four pop-ups, from July 12 through 15, with chefs from some of the participating restaurants serving free sustainable seafood to the first 50 people who RSVP online. The names of the pop-up chefs will be released and RSVPs will be registered at the website and on social media on July 10 at 8:30 a.m.