Audubon sustainable seafood program becomes national FishChoice affiliate

 
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April 27, 2015
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By Benjamin Alexander-Bloch at NOLA.com

Audubon Nature Institute's sustainable seafood program has become a Sustainable Seafood Affiliate with FishChoice, a national website that allows consumers to find Louisiana restaurants serving local, sustainable catch.

"The FishChoice mapping will help show people where they can go, what local restaurants are taking sourcing and sustainable choices seriously," said John Fallon, who spearheads Audubon's Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F.) restaurant outreach program.

The G.U.L.F. program was created in 2012 to assure sustainable local fisheries. In that regard, last year it launched a local chef council to help Audubon develop a partnership with Louisiana restaurants to better educate chefs and waiters on Gulf seafood choices and sourcing.

Currently, FishChoice only features the 10 Louisiana restaurants whose chefs sit on the Audubon chef council. But Fallon said he hopes to have 10 or 15 more restaurants on board by early this summer.

"We are now ready to build our program out more," Fallon said. "We go in and we do an initial training with each of the restaurant staff, give them some materials and then we hope to do specific trainings once every six months or so."

For example, one of the items provided to waiters is a training card, referred to as a "sustainability cheat sheet" that provides a quick refresher of some points covered during G.U.L.F.'s initial training.

"The Gulf is the second largest commercial fishery in the U.S. and so sustainability and our seafood here is a big issue and so we think this will become a really big program," Fallon said.

G.U.L.F. also recently launched a free app for smart phones that lists and maps local restaurant partners as well as provides advice local seafood "seasonality, freshness, and questions you should be asking your fishmonger," Fallon said.

He said the app is more for the local audience whereas the FishChoice mapping "has a much larger reach and gets the word out about what we are doing on the Gulf Coast in terms of sustainability."

In addition to the restaurant outreach program, G.U.L.F. also is working onseafood certification for Louisiana blue crab and oysters, and marine advancement plans that examine Gulf of Mexico fisheries regulations, along with seafood harvesting and handling.

In terms of G.U.L.F.'s work on crab and oyster certification, Audubon has hiredGlobal Trust to help complete that process. Fallon said he anticipated the certifications to be complete by this summer.

That crab certification would be different from Louisiana blue crab's current Marine Stewardship Council sustainable certification in that it would focus more on local cultural and socioeconomic aspects of the fishery.

As part of its "marine advancement plans," G.U.L.F. is also working with the Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission to measure the Gulf fisheries against the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations' Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries Management.

Those plans are expected to take into account all aspects of the industry, from its economics to the Gulf ecosystem. Fallon anticipated their completion by the send of the summer.

The Audubon Commission, the governmental arm of the Audubon Nature Institute, in January agreed to sign a $272,000 contract with the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries to continue the G.U.L.F. program through the end of the year.