What were your first experiences with seafood?
I grew up on the California coast and had always been in love with the ocean. When I was living in Steamboat Springs, I worked as an executive chef and store manager for Charthouse Corporation. We were buying and selling thousands of pounds of seafood every week. I’ll never forget when tilapia hit the scene. Every night I’d have 10 to 15 people want to try it. Looking back at those experiences makes me realize that when I was buying and selling the seafood, I knew very little about its origins. I didn’t know much about the fishermen who were catching it, or the impacts the farms were having. Now we expect our chefs to know so much more.
How did you start FishChoice?
I’d been working with a nonprofit called FishWise
, and we saw a huge disconnect between conservation efforts and the people who were buying and selling seafood. We created a program to help retailers understand and profit from the environmental work going on. One of the big questions the buyers we worked with kept asking was, “Where do I get this product?” They needed quick, simple answers that fit with their business plans. FishChoice came about as a streamlined service to help buyers find companies that supplied seafood products approved by the environmental community. We work with environmental groups that make recommendations, whether it’s a rating or a certification, and then find suppliers that meet the criteria. Then we deliver that information to buyers across the country via our online database.
What is FishChoice’s definition of sustainable seafood?
Each environmental organization has a similar but slightly different definition of sustainability. At FishChoice, it’s important not to be defining sustainability ourselves. We aim to be a conduit for accurate and efficient information. We’re working on an educational platform that lets buyers learn about purchases being made from an aggregated environmental perspective. We’ve partnered with a lot of different organizations to present the information on a species basis rather than an organizational one.
How has FishChoice been going?
Since launching, the number of registered users and the site usage has gone up. In the beginning we explained how important it was for suppliers to be involved in the environmental community. Now they’re coming to us saying, “Look what we’re doing differently. Help us get in front of the buyers that want us.” We’re seeing an increase in demand from both sides.
What do you envision FishChoice’s role in the Future of Fish project as well as in the more general future of fish?
FishChoice is a platform to connect people. We can help investors see where the markets are for a given product, that fish that were caught or farmed in a certain way, and we can help the fishermen and farmers know about investment possibilities. When changes happen on the water and a company improves its practices, FishChoice is an excellent way of connecting that company with buyers.