Blue Seafood Guide

May 2016
Hilary Kotoun, Social Impact Director, Sailors for the Sea
Sailors for the Sea Japan

Sailors for the Sea Japan, Blue Seafood Guide, Blue Seafood, Sustainable Seafood, Japan, Sailors for the Sea, Kids luncheon, Blue Seafood Kids Summer Lunch at Yokohama Inter Continental Hotel
On August 17th, Sailors for the Sea Japan hosted the Blue Seafood Kids Summer Lunch at Yokohama Inter Continental Hotel with support from Nippon Foundation. Over 90 students, mothers and teachers came to the event to learn about sustainable seafood.

In 2013, Minako Iue, president of Sailors for the Sea Japan, set out on an unprecedented mission to make a sustainable seafood guide for her country. As you can probably guess, the country that brought the world sushi has a large appetite for seafood. According to the United Nations, Japan consumes 6% of the world’s fish harvest, but its citizens make up only 2% of global population. Armed with this knowledge, Minako knew that if Sailors for the Sea Japan could successfully introduce the concept of sustainable seafood, the group could truly help make an impact on decreasing overfishing.

How to Pick the Right Fish?

Without a large research team or staff, Minako knew the best way to create a sustainable seafood guide was to rely on the research already verified by credible organizations like the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California.

However, this quickly created a bump in the road. In the United States, we generally have approximately five seafood options on a menu (salmon, tuna, lobster, mussels, etc.) but on a menu in Japan, the options are significantly broader.

Minako realized she needed many more resources and expanded to reviewing research from the Japan Fisheries Agency and municipal governments as well as Monterey Bay Aquarium, the Marine Stewardship Council, the International Union for Conservation of Nature, the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace. To ensure credibility, the stricter standard was adopted if multiple sources showed different assessment of data for the same species caught by the same method.

Currently, the Blue Seafood Guide features 60 different fish that are commonly found in restaurants and markets in Japan. In comparison, the Monterey Bay Aquarium pocket guide features 23 best options.

Blue is Better

When creating the Blue Seafood Guide, Minako chose to feature only sustainable seafood, rather than include fish and shellfish that should not be eaten. This small, but important shift in approach allows the guide to be well received by Japanese culture, enabling Sailors for the Sea Japan to partner with many organizations that would not normally discuss ocean health issues.

Last year, in partnership with one of Japan’s major TV networks, Asahi TV, Sailors for the Sea Japan held Blue Seafood festivals. These festivals feature celebrities sharing their passion for sustainable seafood and organic products. The events also offer catering and retail areas to allow attendees to taste and purchase the fish and seaweed recommend by the guide. Additionally, Sailors for the Sea Japan has created sustainability partnerships with restaurants that offer fish featured in the Blue Seafood Guide.

Give The Ocean Rest

Sailors for the Sea Japan asks its readers to give the ocean rest so its resources will be available for future generations. In a country whose culture is steeped in a tradition that includes eating seafood, the guide boldly notes a United Nations statistic that all species currently fished for will be depleted by 2048 if citizens continue to fish at the current pace. As well, the Japanese Eel, widely consumed there, has been designated an endangered species. Additionally, in a nation that still hunts whales and dolphins, the guide is careful to outline that these species are high in mercury.

“Our mission is to increase awareness and give opportunities to learn about the protection of marine resources so that we can pass this beautiful planet on to the next generation,” - Minako Iue, president, Sailors for the Sea Japan.

The Blue Seafood Guide was made possible with special funding from the David and Lucile Packard Foundation and help from Monterey Bay Aquarium and The Scripps Research Institute.

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