Side Dish

Fish without guilt

It's getting so you can't put anything in your mouth (intending to eat it) without feeling a twinge of guilt. Do I know this coffee is bird-friendly? Am I sure the calf whose toothsome shanks compose the osso buco before me died happy? If tonight I dine on spot prawns, will another mangrove die in Thailand tomorrow? Any number of organizations have long stood ready to make you feel bad about the fish you eat; now there's one dedicated to relieving you of guilt. Last week, Puget Consumers Co-op CEO Tracy Wolpert announced a collaboration between the venerable eat-good organization he heads and EcoFish, Inc. of Portsmouth, N.H. The plan: to sell "gourmet-quality, competitively priced, environmentally responsible [as certified by EcoFish] seafood" in all seven Puget Sound PCC stores. EcoFish CEO Henry Lovejoy has put together a pretty impressive advisory board of eco-philanthropists, environmentalists, and ocean scientists to vouch for the purity of his motives and to provide counsel about just which fisheries are "sustainable" and hence deserve the EcoFish seal of approval. But most of Lovejoy's expert board are East Coasters; and where, you ask, does even Steve Webster, senior marine biologist of the Monterey Bay Aquarium, get his information about sustainability in the Pacific? How does Steve know what fishery standards are being practiced up at Dabob Bay or off Queen Charlotte Island, let alone along the Great Barrier Reef? He doesn't, of course. But he and his colleagues on the EcoFish board know as much as anyone what a sustainable fishery is, and that's a necessary first step toward establishing standards so that everyone involved, from fishing boat to shipper to retailer to customer, is reading from the same page. EcoFish distributes fish, but its most important value-added product is trust. EcoFish started out distributing sustainable frozen fish to organic food retailers. It ventured into the fresh-fish field last April, taking on distribution of Alaska wild salmon certified sustainable by the international Marine Stewardship Council. In pairing with PCC—a collaboration that EcoFish CEO Henry Lovejoy says is the first of many with environmentally sensitive retailers and chains—the reinforcement is mutual. Lovejoy gains credibility for association with a long-established nonprofit grocery chain; PCC offers its members piscine peace of mind. By itself, it's not going to do much about the continuing rape of the world's oceans. But it gives you a chance to refuse to take part.

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