British Columbia

UBC to offer 100 per cent sustainable seafood in all dining halls

As of July 1, the University of British Columbia says it will purchase and offer only Ocean Wise recommended sustainable seafood in its dining halls.

University Food Services will work with local, small-scale and family-owned fisheries

The Ocean Wise symbol next to a piece of fish means it has the Vancouver Aquarium’s stamp of approval. (Ocean Wise)

As of July 1, the University of British Columbia says it will purchase and offer only 100 per cent Ocean Wise recommended sustainable seafood in its dining halls.

The announcement came Friday, on the eve of World Oceans Day, as Canadians are being encouraged to take action to help protect and conserve the planet's ecosystems.

Despite being an Ocean Wise partner since 2008, the university says in a press release that it still purchased a significant amount of frozen seafood.

"Most universities in Canada are public institutions with significant food purchasing power that have influence on the food industry," states Andrew Parr, managing director of UBC student housing and hospitality services, in the release.

"UBC is committed to doing what it can to help restore the balance in our oceans."

Oysters are on the Ocean Wise sustainable seafood list. (Shutterstock / Milan Martis)

The Ocean Wise Seafood Program works with its partners to label foods that are "ocean friendly." According to its website, sustainable seafood is defined as "species that are caught or farmed in a way that ensures the long-term health and stability of that species, as well as the greater marine ecosystem."

Kai Chan, professor at UBC's Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, says the move by UBC Food Services is proof that a large-scale move to sustainable seafood is financially sound.

However, he notes that grocery shopping in an environmentally responsible way can be more difficult for individual consumers.

"We've got this escalation of different kinds of issues and different labels that apply to different products... That proliferation of labels — each of which is really complex — makes it a lot harder."

Chan says Ocean Wise-certified products are relatively sustainable, but they often come from producers that have at least some negative impact on fish populations.

His best advice for consumers is to get to know the brands they buy and not simply rely on the sustainable label.

"Support the brand where you know that they're really making a commitment," he says.

In addition to buying Ocean Wise recommended seafood from larger producers, UBC Food Services says it plans to work with local, small-scale and family-owned fisheries that follow sustainable practices but may not have the resources to achieve certification.

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