Where does that seafood on your plate come from?
That’s the question the Texas State Aquarium, the Texas Sea Grant College Program at Texas A&M University and Audubon Aquarium’s Gulf United for Lasting Fisheries (G.U.L.F.) want consumers to start asking seafood suppliers and restaurants. And so today, in commemoration of National Seafood Month, these organizations announced a partnership between themselves and several restaurants in Texas aimed at raising awareness on why the origin of your next fish or shellfish meal is so important.
To kick off the Texas Chapter of the G.U.L.F. Restaurant Partnership Program, three founding restaurants will be recognized for their early and ongoing commitment to supplying sustainable seafood. The Texas State Aquarium Pepsi Shoreline Grill, Corpus Christi Yacht Club in Corpus Christi and Glow, in Rockport, will be recognized as the first partners of the Texas State Aquarium, Audubon Aquarium and Sea Grant on their restaurants’ messaging, signaling to their patrons that they are dining on food that has been responsibly sourced to ensure the long-term health of the ocean’s fish populations.
“Since 2014, G.U.L.F. has worked with chefs and restaurants in Louisiana to enhance the profile of sustainable Gulf seafood,” said John Fallon, Director of Sustainability & Coastal Conservation at Audubon Aquarium. “We’re thrilled to partner with Texas State Aquarium and Sea Grant to bring this important effort to Texas.”
Restaurants will be allowed to display the organizations’ logos as a window decal or on their websites. In addition, G.U.L.F Restaurant Partners will receive in-house staff training to help them communicate with customers about sustainable seafood and a variety of other educational tools, resources and networking opportunities.
“The restaurant partnership program provides education and training to restaurants committed to serving local and sustainable seafood,” said Laura Picariello, Texas Sea Grant Fisheries Specialist. “This partnership also supports the coastal economy while enabling chefs to create delicious meals that consumers can feel good about eating.”
Organizers of this partnership program say restaurants account for 70 percent of the seafood consumed in the United States, making chefs and restaurateurs the “frontline” of seafood education. And getting the word out to consumers is so important because they have the most capacity to make a difference by the choices they make, both when dining out and at home.
Overfishing – where fish are harvested faster than they can reproduce – is one of the most serious dangers facing our oceans today. Conservationists warn that unregulated commercial fishing threatens one-third of the world’s fisheries and if these species disappear, there could be enormous and untold consequences on the marine ecosystems. Overfishing also can affect ocean life that’s not even being targeted. The delicate balance of ocean environments means that the collapse of one species from overfishing can lead to the extinction of countless others. In what’s known as bycatch, sea life can be accidentally entangled in the nets used by anglers, causing the needless death of hundreds of thousands of sea turtles and cetaceans.
But the damage done by overfishing goes even beyond sea life. Billions of people the world over rely on fish as their chief source of protein and the industry employs millions of people. At its current rate, however, fishing could soon no longer be a viable source of employment or food. While many organizations and governments are taking action to curb the rate of overfishing, conservationists say the most immediate and meaningful change will by spurred by consumers, which is why sustainable seafood awareness is so critical.
Through this growing restaurant partnership, the Texas State Aquarium, Audubon Aquarium and Texas Sea Grant hope to reach millions of consumers, encouraging more and more suppliers and consumers to ensure their seafood is sustainably sourced.
In the meantime, these organizations say it’s always a good idea to double check where the seafood on your menu or grocery list comes from. “To combat overfishing and unsustainable harvests, we recommend choosing seafoods caught or farmed in the United States – especially the Gulf of Mexico and Gulf states, as U.S. fisheries are among the best managed in the world,” said Leslie Peart, the Texas State Aquarium VP of Education and Conservation.
Additionally, Texas Sea Grant is running a Smart Seafoodie pledge at tx.ag/smartseafoodie and providing additional resources on finding local, sustainable seafood through a variety of resources.
To learn more about the restaurant partnership program by the Texas State Aquarium, Texas Sea Grant and Audubon Aquarium, visit texasseagrant.org/programs/g.u.l.f.-restaurant-partnership/.
Texas State Aquarium (TSA), the Official Aquarium of the State of Texas, is a private, not-for-profit 501(c)(3) institution that is fully accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. Its mission is to engage people with animals, inspire appreciation for our seas and support wildlife conservation. TSA provides high quality science education about marine conservation and the habitats and species of the Gulf of Mexico to families primarily in Texas. Recently, it was named the number one cultural attraction in South Texas and one of the Top 20 Aquariums in the nation by TravelChannel.com. Learn more at.
Audubon Nature Institute operates a family of museums, parks and research facilities dedicated to celebrating the wonders of nature in New Orleans, LA. Through innovative live animal exhibits, education programs, and scientific discovery, Audubon makes a meaningful contribution to preserving wildlife for the future. Audubon Nature Institute flagships include Audubon Park, Audubon Zoo, Audubon Aquarium of the Americas, Entergy Giant Screen Theater, Audubon Butterfly Garden and Insectarium, Audubon Louisiana Nature Center, Freeport-McMoRan Audubon Species Survival Center, Woldenberg Riverfront Park and Audubon Wilderness Park.
Texas Sea Grant is a unique partnership that unites the resources of the federal government, the State of Texas and universities across the state to create knowledge, tools, products and services that benefit the economy, the environment and the citizens of Texas. It is administered through the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is one of 33 university-based Sea Grant Programs around the country. Texas Sea Grant is a non-academic research center in the College of Geosciences at Texas A&M University. The program’s mission is to improve the understanding, wise use and stewardship of Texas coastal and marine resources.