Vancouver, B.C. – Some species of B.C. rockfish (Sebastes) are now recommended by Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program following the release of an updated assessment on groundfish, a group that includes bottom-dwellers such as halibut, lingcod and rockfish. Rockfish, a whitefish popular among consumers, is found along the Pacific Coast from California to Alaska.
All rockfish fished along the B.C. coast had previously been not recommended by Ocean Wise, due in part to habitat impacts associated with bottom trawl fishing gear, which is towed along the seafloor to gather catch. Midwater trawling involves towing a net in the water column above the seafloor and allows targeted fishing of rockfish in those areas. The recent assessment of midwater trawling methods released on Tuesday by Seafood Watch and SeaChoice has helped to recognize the environmental performance of the two different fishing practices. Ocean Wise criteria were applied to the updated assessment, leading to a recommendation for midwater-trawled rockfish. This sharing of information and knowledge among organizations allows for a collaborative approach to raising awareness about sustainable fishing across the industry and among consumers.
The new report lists four species of rockfish that are midwater-trawled as sustainable options: yellowtail, yellowmouth, silvergray and canary rockfish. In the case of yellowtail rockfish, a recent government stock assessment that indicates a healthy stock was also made available, which further increased their assessment score.
“There have been significant strides in the management of B.C. groundfish over the past 20 years. With this latest recognition of midwater trawl-caught rockfish, consumers will now find the Ocean Wise symbol next to select B.C. rockfish that have been reclassified by the Vancouver Aquarium and are now considered sustainable options,” said Ann-Marie Copping, Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program manager. “We encourage consumers, whether they’re visiting their local fishmonger or out for dinner at an Ocean Wise partner restaurant, to inquire about where their seafood comes from and how it was fished. This collective curiosity will encourage even more venues to offer sustainable seafood selections, which, in turn, will help continue to move the needle on sustainability and ensure the health of our oceans for generations to come.”
Dr. Scott Wallace, senior research scientist at David Suzuki Foundation, has been working closely with the B.C. groundfish bottom trawl industry for close to a decade and has observed several improvements to reduce the industry’s habitat impacts.
“These new rankings reflect the obvious fact that fishing completely away from the seafloor will result in the least amount of habitat impact. We hope recognition by Ocean Wise will provide an incentive to catch a greater proportion of these rockfish species using mid-water fishing gear,” said Wallace. Currently only about one third of the allowable catch of these rockfish species are caught mid-water.
In addition to improved management, new technologies in the seafood industry enable fishermen to label their catch for traceability purposes, so retailers, chefs and ultimately consumers can track the rockfish from ocean to table.
Chef Ned Bell of YEW seafood + bar was recently recognized as a champion of sustainable seafood with the B.C. Coastal Artist Award at the Vancouver Aquarium’s Coastal Ocean Awards. Bell notes that assessments for local seafood provide valuable information to chefs.
“Having detailed knowledge about lesser-known local fish, including how, where and what is being caught, makes it much easier to cook, create and share new recipes with guests, peers and colleagues,” said Bell. “Chefs value that information and I value the great work being done on the water by everyone involved for healthier fisheries and sustainable seafood options, such as B.C. rockfish.”
Vancouver Aquarium Ocean Wise™
Overfishing is the single biggest threat our oceans face today. With more than 650 partners across Canada, Ocean Wise makes it easy for consumers to make sustainable seafood choices that ensure the health of our oceans for generations to come. The Ocean Wise symbol next to a seafood item is the Vancouver Aquarium’s assurance of an ocean-friendly seafood choice. www.oceanwise.ca.