The importance of transparency and contributing to sustainable markets

At California State University, Monterey Bay (CSUMB), some students share the enthusiasm of the emblematic sea otter for delicious and sustainable seafood. The Otter Express (OE), located adjacent to the Dining Commons on campus, offers a variety of food options to CSUMB students including the WOW Café, Grains and Greens bowls, and Hissho Sushi. Taste in food is important, and while the food at the OE might be delicious, it is also important to make sure it is responsibly sourced.

Most of the food served at the OE is ordered by A’viands, a company working under the French multinational commercial food service company Elior. “For Grains and Greens, all of our produce is sourced through Freshpoint, a company that is a subsidiary under Sysco,” said Ashley Lin, the campus director of sustainability for A’viands, “The sushi purchasing is completely through their own company and not through us.”

Hissho Sushi is an independent contractor with CSUMB and they manage all the seafood sourcing for their sushi rolls prepared at the OE. The sushi company spends “approximately $6,000 each week” to supply sushi to the OE, according to Aung Phyoe, the franchisee of Hissho Sushi at CSUMB. Considering most students probably only eat at the OE Monday through Thursday, that translates to over $1,000 a day.

“All the fish we have is imported, except for the salmon” said Aung, “I believe everything we use is farm-raised except for the tuna, the tuna is wild-caught.” When asked if the seafood he was using in the sushi was responsibly sourced, Aung said that he wasn’t sure.

Consumers looking to support sustainable practices would need to know a little more about where the seafood comes from. The location regionally, in addition to the methods used to produce or capture it, are important elements in determining sustainability and usually needed when referring to the Seafood Watch recommendations.

According to a partnership survey between Hissho Sushi and Resiliensea Group LLC, sent by the regional managers of Hissho Sushi, it was determined that “almost 90 percent of current total purchases were from either certified sources or from sources engaged in credible fisheries improvement programs.”

Additionally, of the total purchases “38 percent are from an active Marine Stewardship Council-certified fishery, and 31.6 percent are from Best Aquaculture Practice and Aquaculture Stewardship Council certified facilities.” By the end of 2019, Hissho Sushi plans to be 100 percent responsibly sourced by “establishing strict supplier purchase guidelines, eliminating species that are under threat from its offerings and developing a purchasing policy.”

There are some fishing and aquaculture practices that are more environmentally friendly than others. Supporting the companies who are using environmentally friendly practices is one way people can directly help move sustainable markets forward.

Asking restaurants and businesses if their seafood is responsibly sourced lets those companies know their customers want sustainable products and it creates a pressure to ensure that it is. Hissho Sushi might get more business if they were more transparent about their current seafood sourcing practices as well as their goals. In any case, it would appear that students eating sushi at the OE can be content as sea otters knowing they are contributing to a balanced and healthy marine ecosystem.

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