Chef, author and educator Barton Seaver speaks to the Seafood West Summit in Campbell River. Photo by Mike Chouinard/Campbell River Mirror

Chef, author and educator Barton Seaver speaks to the Seafood West Summit in Campbell River. Photo by Mike Chouinard/Campbell River Mirror

Educate chefs about aquaculture, says Seaver

Renowned chef and author speaks to Seafood West Summit in Campbell River

Barton Seaver used to be against the idea of aquaculture, but he now sees it as key for a sustainable future.

The renowned chef, author and educator was one of the speakers featured at this Seafood West Summit in Campbell River.

He spoke of his original opposition near the beginning of his talk on Friday.

“I didn’t like you all very much,” he admitted.

RELATED STORY: Retired DFO scientist plans wild salmon research expedition

He gave a little bit of his background, which included growing up in Washington, D.C., and fishing on nearby Chesapeake Bay.

RELATED STORY: Salmon farming industry converges on Campbell River

There, he developed his love of fish, which eventually led him into the culinary world.

Like many, he became concerned with the potential effects of aquaculture on wild fish stocks, and he made every attempt to go green in his business. He was then surprised when he lost a mark in one rating for ocean-friendly restaurants because of the amount of food used in fish he sourced from an aquaculture operation in West Virginia in an economically depressed region. He realized that part of sustainability lay with supporting people.

Seaver talked about the need for this economy in states like Maine, where he now lives, which suffers from one of the worst opioid epidemics in the U.S. and a stagnant economy. While industries like lobster-fishing are still strong, he added, they are vulnerable, and he thinks aquaculture can help.

“I look at seafood as a means to uplift them,” he said. “We have to approach this as an equity idea, as a justice idea.”

All of these factors meant rethinking the industry for Seaver, and he sees as aquaculture as the means to help protect wild stocks. He admits there have been problems, but he pointed out that while traditional agriculture has had 10,000 years to make changes, aquaculture is only a few decades.

“The last time we got to invent a food system was 10,000 years ago,” he said.

Yet, when there are problems with aquaculture, the entire industry gets rejected, whereas when other food production industries face problems, they do not meet with the same broad-sweeping criticism.

“We have to defend just to get to neutral,” he said.

The challenge, Seaver said, is to tell the story of aquaculture more effectively.

Part of this involves creating more acceptance of seafood from the public in general. Seaver said one in four Americans never eat seafood. Yet, as he pointed out, seafood tends to be healthier than chicken, pork or beef, and the industry has less effect on resources and the environment in terms of the resources needed.

“We are the product of resilient ecosystems,” he said. “We are wholly dependent.”

He outlined some of the historic challenges that date back to local, religious and cultural prejudices against fish in American society. Again, Seaver said that while any American can envision what the traditional farm looks life, few have the same imagination when it comes to fisheries.

In response, Seaver recommends targeting cooking students and chefs, as well as post-secondary institutions. He said at most, culinary students use salmon to learn how to grill but do not typically delve into seafood much more than that.

“It’s just orange fish. That’s all cooks are expected to know,” he said.

There is an opportunity though for making seafoods, he said, be more a part of the curriculum at cooking schools, an ultimately more a part of people’s diets.

“It is chefs that can teach us to like seafood,” he said.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

WILDLIFE TREE: Tofino Poet Laureate Christine Lowther stands next to a giant cedar tree on District Lot 114, the site of Tofino’s controversial affordable housing project. The tree was pinned with an official Ministry of Forests yellow wildlife tree sign to educate fallers that the tree needs to be left standing for food, shelter and nesting. (Nora O’Malley photo)
Tofino author Christine Lowther calling for poetry about trees

“I’m thrilled to be of service to trees through poetry.”

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6. (Westerly file photo)
Tofino’s mayoralty candidates lay out key differences

Tofino will elect a new mayor and two new councillors on March 6.

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

Clockwise from top right, chamber executive director Jen Dart moderated a Zoom-based forum last week where Tofino’s mayoralty candidates J.J. Belanger, Andrea McQuade and Dan Law made their pitch to lead their community. (Screenshot)
WATCH: Tofino mayoralty candidates face off at forum

Town to elect new mayor and two new councillors on March 6.

A man died in a house fire at the Ahousaht First Nation reserve on Feb. 17, 2021. (BP File Image)
House fire claims life of one man in Ahousaht

Investigation underway as tight-knit community mourns, foul play not suspected

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature. (B.C. government)
B.C. reports 10 additional deaths, 395 new COVID-19 cases

The majority of new coronavirus infections were in the Fraser Health region

Nanaimo-raised singer Allison Crowe with director Zack Snyder on the set of ‘Man of Steel’ in 2011. Crowe performs a cover of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah in the upcoming director’s cut of ‘Justice League.’ (Photo courtesy Clay Enos)
Island-raised musician records song for upcoming ‘Justice League’ film

Allison Crowe’s rendition of Leonard Cohen’s Hallelujah closes out the movie

A 50-year-old man was stabbed in an altercation that started with a disagreement about physical distancing. (File photo)
Argument about physical distancing escalates to stabbing in Nanaimo

Victim, struck with coffee cup and then stabbed, suffers minor injuries; suspect arrested

A battery electric-hybrid ferry, pictured here, is expected to make its way to Vancouver Island in late 2021, says B.C. Ferries. (Submitted photo)
Hybrid ferry for Gabriola-Nanaimo route launches in shipyard in Europe

Two hybrid vessels to replace MV Quinsam by early 2022, says B.C. Ferries

The Pacheedaht First Nation is planning a $1-million expansion to its campground in Port Renfrew. (Pixabay photo)
Expanded camping announced for Pacheedaht Campground

$1-million project is part of the B.C. Rural Economic Recovery program

NDP leader Jagmeet Singh holds a press conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa on Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
NDP will not trigger election as long as pandemic continues: Singh

‘“We will vote to keep the government going’

The Port of Nanaimo has signed a 50-year-agreement with DP World around short-sea shipping operations at Duke Point Terminal. (News Bulletin file photo)
Lease ‘important first step’ in $105-million Nanaimo port expansion project

Port of Nanaimo and DP World sign 50-year shipping operations agreement for Duke Point

A BC Ferries worker out of Swartz Bay has tested positive for COVID-19. (Black Press Media file photo)
Swartz Bay ferry worker confirmed to have COVID-19

Employees in direct contact with worker now isolating

Most Read