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The Future of Our Fish.
By Brad Nelson
Wednesday, 27th October 2010
 
We serve a lot of fish in our hotels and restaurants and though an exact tally is difficult to determine, it is safe to say it is in the million kilo range on a global annual basis.

Figure the average fish is around 2-5 kilos. 200-400 thousand fish a year? Probably a number not too far off. So it is with that as a background that we ask the question about the future supply and question how our current stock of fish is being managed.

Fact: 40% of menu sales come from fish and seafood, a number that continues to grow.
Myth: There are plenty of fish in the sea.

Marine scientists argue that if the world continues at the current consumption rate, the global seafood resources are at risk of becoming non existent, some say by 2040. I am no scientist, nor do I believe the world will actually let that happen, but every chef will tell you that the fish are smaller now than they were several years ago.

It is really up to us to manage how we handle the growing concern of seafood sustainability, and preserve our ability to prepare and serve this all important menu category. To that end, Marriot has initiated a program designed to address this growing concern and define how we approach seafood sustainably on a global strategic level with local actions. FutureFish is an internal program guiding our chefs in seafood selection, procurement, sales preferences, and sustainable solutions.

Tackling this issue, there are clearly several categories that are at the most risk. We know the Blue Fin tuna fishery is at great risk, and are vowing to look to other species of tuna instead of Blue Fin. Chilean Sea Bass, a relatively new menu favorite (almost unheard of before 1985), is overfished. Only the Chilean Sea Bass certified out of the South Georgian fishery is actually sustainable.

And of course, one of the biggest issues according to Conservation International is the state of the shark population and what is happening as a result of the demand for shark and shark fin. Each of these we are addressing individually, and in a way to provide better tools of understanding for chefs and the ultimate deciders, our guests.

Our portfolio wide goals are really quite simple:
  • Positively impact the sustainability of the seafood we purchase, using informed buying decisions and menus with built-in sustainability;
  • Provide seafood sustainability guidance on a global scale that considers cultural and market uniqueness;
  • Identify and support local sustainable fishing industries and fishing practices.
In building this philosophy, we have talked with many of the leading groups and have utilized their resources to build what is, I believe, the first global approach to sustainable seafood in the hotel/restaurant industry.

Using as a guide our 4 business continents - Americas, Asia-Pacific, Middle East Africa, and Europe - unique fish lists have been created to identify the sustainability rankings of popularly menued species. This cannot be done alone, so in each part of the world our suppliers play a key role.

Seafood is one of the most important food sources the world has to offer. It provides incredible flexibility and variety for chefs to ply their talents. Establishing a sustainable mindset to how we design seafood not only opens the doors to creative preparations, but helps insure we actually have fish to cook for the future, not just for the now.

My name is Brad Nelson and I am Marriott's corporate chef and vice president of culinary. I grew up in Seattle, Washington where I developed the passion for food that continues to follow me throughout my career. We savored the first salmon of the season, shopped Pike Place Market, grew vegetables in the family garden, and learned to respect nature's simple, clean flavors, which I strive to instill into the philosophy of our numerous global kitchens.

More significant has been the daily food discoveries that still enlighten me, proving the old adage no one knows it all. That is never more accurate than in the food world.

www.chefblog.marriott.com
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