By Katherine Dolmage, SeaChoice Market Analyst
This week, I packed up my winter coat and warmest boots and boarded a flight for our Nation’s capital. Although the temperatures dropped to -20, spirits were high among my colleagues – staff from Ocean Wise, Greenpeace Canada, WWF Canada, the Marine Stewardship Council, and chefs from across Canada. After months of coordination and planning by the groups, it was finally time for our National Sustainable Seafood Day event on Parliament Hill.
In 2012, at the Chef’s Congress in Nova Scotia, the managers of SeaChoice and Ocean Wise, along with Executive Chef Ned Bell, got to talking. They all shared a great passion for sustainable seafood and a huge desire to not only teach Canadians about the issues facing our oceans, but to create a platform to celebrate the sustainable seafood options. This is where the idea for a National Sustainable Seafood Day was shaped. Together, the groups organized an event last May to introduce the idea and gain momentum. MP Fin Donnelly has tabled this motion in Parliament, and March 4 was our chance to get the message out to politicians.
My favourite part of many of the events SeaChoice is involved in is the presence of chefs (not to mention their fabulous food!). The passion for sustainable seafood shown by ambassadors like Rob Clark and Ned Bell is infectious. In Ottawa, we were also joined by Chef Walid El-Tawil of E18hteen Restaurant in Ottawa, Chef Kate Kelnavic of the Whalesbone in Ottawa, and Chef Jonathan Lapierre Réhayem of Laloux in Montreal. NGOs and scientists can preach about sustainable seafood until we’re blue in the face, but when the message comes directly from the people who feed you, it’s simple. If we want to keep eating delicious foods (the night’s menu included scallops, albacore tuna, oysters, northern shrimp, trout and yellow perch) we need to be responsible with our oceans.
Response to our event was fantastic- the room quickly filled with Members of Parliament and Senators from across Canada. It was one of the most engaging crowds I have been a part of. While some visitors had a deep understanding of sustainability issues already, for others it was brand new. But they were all keen to learn more.
They say you shouldn’t use clichés when you write, but there is one I can’t avoid. “This isn’t a problem, it’s an opportunity.” Often, we concentrate so hard on the problems facing our oceans, we forget to celebrate them. Creating a National Sustainable Seafood Day in Canada gives us the opportunity to celebrate the fantastic bounty of the ocean. I have returned to Vancouver inspired by the collaboration between groups and the interest by politicians. We will continue to work towards creation of this day- and hope you will help us by signing the petition!