Fishing Adventures

Sustainable “Sensible” Seafood Week at the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center



When I got the Aquarium everyone was super nice to me, I saw my old friend Karen Burns who was on the show last year, I met the Sensible Seafood Squad and then we went to Whole Foods to talk sustainability to the public.

We ate great meals out with April Abbey Road

Then it was off to our first stop at WholeFoods  in Virginia Beach, we talked with Fish Monger Dan


Dan started by telling us what was in season and local and what we should be eating  Dan also explained how to choose a fresh fish

No worries in our seafood department. Fresh or frozen, we have traceability from fishery to store. And, we only sell wild-caught seafood from fisheries that are certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) or rated either “Green” or “Yellow” by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch and The Safina Center. We don’t sell any of the red-rated seafood you might find at other grocery stores.

We were totally impressed with the way Wholefoods deals with their seafood, I wish all markets would be as responsible. Great work, special thanks to Dan for his time and Elizabeth the manager for allowing us to chat with Dan in the store.


In between segments, you are going to hear people giving us their definition of sustainable seafood. Reflecting back on this, I now understand why places like the Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center need to work so hard to teach folks what sustainable means.


Maybe we should start by defining sustainable seafood

About the Sensible Seafood™ program

Our Sensible Seafood™ Advisory Panel and the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program help identify sensible seafood choices in Virginia. These are the questions used to determine whether a type of seafood is sustainable:

What is the seafood source?

Is the seafood from local sources, from other parts of the U.S, or imported? This is important because, like many other commodities, seafood can now be transported all over the globe. Seafood from local sources has the potential to be fresher and reduces the financial and environmental costs of long distance transport. Additionally, U.S. fisheries are better managed than most foreign fisheries. These factors are important when considering where a seafood item might originate.

How is the species population doing?

This seems like an obvious question, but in order to know if the seafood we are consuming is a good choice, we need to know about the life history of the species and if its population is abundant or disappearing. Some species easily reproduce in large numbers and grow to maturity very fast. Others, such as sharks, reproduce and mature more slowly. Understanding these factors is critical for good fisheries management. Abundant species from well managed fisheries make good seafood choices.

Is it wild-caught or farm-raised?

To meet increasing world demand for seafood, many species are now raised on farms, a process called aquaculture. In some cases, the wild stock of a species may be depleted, but there is a sensible supply from aquaculture, like Virginia oysters and catfish. In other cases, the farmed stock has been associated with problems and the wild-caught stock is the better choice, like some imported shrimp.  

How is the seafood harvested?

Are the fishing or aquaculture practices environmentally sound? To answer this question, we must understand fisheries and aquaculture techniques and how they are applied for harvesting different seafood species. Some fishing techniques, like bottom trawling or dredging, have the potential to damage the ocean bottom. Others may have unintended catches of fish, crabs or other unwanted animals. This is called bycatch and can even include accidental drowning of sea turtles or marine mammals. Finally, poorly managed aquaculture operations can damage coastal ecosystems. Well managed fisheries and aquaculture that utilize sound techniques to minimize bycatch and ecosystem impacts provide the best seafood choices


After we finished up a Whole Foods we headed across the street to for some great local beer and trivia. We nearly won at trivia too, but it was loud in there and one of the trivia answers was Traveling Wilburys and Karen heard me say Mulberrys… totally fun… if you eat there I recommend the Bratwurst, it’ll make you want to stay longer

The next morning we headed directly to the Aquarium to get to work. I got an amazing behind the scenes tour and more importantly I got to meet the seal trainers. I was not allowed to record or take photos of most of what I saw, but I was super impressed. Big thanks to the Seals and the seal workers, not sure if they call them trainers… but fab! Sarah Dawson, Betty Alexander

From there I got  to sit down with Mark Swingle   the director of Conservation.

In this chat you will hear me mention “Food Box” that is a line I hear a lot on the Varmints Podcast (one of my favorite shows)


We went to a local a chain restaurant  for lunch with Bruce  Owner of Sam Rust Seafood.

The next day I got to speak to a large group of staff and volunteers at a “Lunch and Learn” you can hear that full conversation if you listen to last weeks show.

We had dinner at lagerheads that night with Trish and her son Yates who will be hiking the AT this summer, when he gets to NH I am going to give him a trail break and take him fishing. I ordered the Spider Burger… that is a burger with a fried softshell blue crab.


Thursday morning I had the day to myself, so I took a ride down to the VB Fishing Pier, caught one Ocean Perch, met some super cool people and then it was off to work. Sensible Seafood day is big business.

This is when I got a super behind the scenes tour of the aquarium and got to learn how the animals are fed. I always assumed that piles of food were just tossed into the tank. But it wasn’t so.

Big thanks to Mary McCarthy, Julie Levans for showing me the spotted ray feeding and Evan for showing me the turtles and blowfish and coral and lots of other groovy things. Not to mention that he gave my kids some shark teeth. I think they were sand tiger shark…

Just before the Fest I got to feed the cownose rays with Ryan Kilduff

And I had the fun job as speaker at a private function just before the event.

Finally the Sensible Seafood Fest was on!

22 restaurants participated and I was the only judge for sustainability. I was looking for three things 1. Is it sustainable (I defined that as local, in season, plentiful and harvested well) 2. Is it yummy? 3. How much waste is involved with serving it, for example was it served in a plastic cup, or napkin? (I gave advantage to zero waste) I was prepared to give super bonus points to anyone serving invasive species.


The participating restaurants were…


Big thanks to Jeff Thompson, Rachel Wadsworth, and Alex Balke for taking me fishing


Special Thanks to  Lynn Clements, Executive Director

AND Karen, Leslie and Brooke from the Sensible Seafood Squad


Not to forget Matt, who showed me everything that I can’t talk about.

Participating Markets and Restaurants

abbey road American shellfish company big island aquaculture bonefish grill cafe provencal captain george'scarolina cupcakery  catch31 clear springs inc culinary institute distinctive gourmet farm fresh Jakes smokehouse Murphys Sodexo sonoma tataugs tradewinds Whole Foods Market Virginia Beach opens on October 24, 2012 wickers crab pot




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