A Taste of America Is in Idaho’s Magic Valley.
Nestled in south central Idaho, amid Rocky Mountain wilderness and the clear-flowing Snake River, resides a family of local farms that may be unlike any you’ve seen before.
Riverence follows a land-based farm model, but instead of tending potatoes, wheat or cattle they are cultivating something just as valuable – premium, American-raised trout.
In October 2022, Riverence family of farms became the first North American trout producers to achieve ASC-certification, meaning their farm-raised rainbow and steelhead trout meet the highest global standards for responsible aquaculture production.
That’s a big deal for any aquaculture farm. For Riverence, who employs over 300 local team members, manages 14 farm sites, and produces more than 22 million pounds of trout a year, it’s an enormous commitment. Yet a look through the company’s history of forward-thinking and dedication to sustainable practices reveals this as a natural next step in their journey.
To pull back the curtain, we went directly to the source. Riverence’s Vice President of Sustainability, Todd English, joined by Assistant Manager Brandi Lowe and Taylor Sturdevant, Incubation & Shipping Lead, weigh in on how they care for fish in the most responsible way possible, while being good stewards of their resources and “doing more with less.”
The magic of Magic Valley
“I think Magic Valley is one of the most breathtaking natural phenomena,” observes Sturdevant. “The ability for Riverence to have consistent and fresh available spring water is remarkable. Our farms are like no other, specifically due to these amazing natural resources.”
“We get a little bit of every extreme,” says Lowe, who has always called Magic Valley home. “From the glistening snow in the winter to the scorching sun in mid-summer, from the sagebrush in the desert to the trout and sturgeon swimming deep within the Snake River, even from the brisk air in the mountains with a sky filled with stars to a fiery pink sunset early in the evening there’s a little bit of magic all around us.”
According to English, “Idaho’s Magic Valley is unique in many ways but most importantly because of the incredible spring water resource we are lucky to have access to and take care of. It’s here because of a unique geological event that happened 17,000 years ago and crystal-clear water has been flowing ever since. It’s the perfect temperature and flow rate to produce incredibly clean-tasting rainbow trout and steelhead.”
The people make the place
You might be wondering – how does one get started working on a trout farm in the middle of the Gem State?
For Lowe, it was only natural.
“I was born and raised in southern Idaho and never planned to leave the area. On a field day in kindergarten, we visited an aquaculture facility and my six-year-old self thought feeding fish all day was possibly one of the best jobs I had ever heard of,” says the farmer, who now assists with every aspect of fish husbandry and management. “I always wanted to work outside and do something I felt fulfilled in, and it turns out I got hired at the same facility that I toured when I was just six years old, almost 16 years later.”
It’s a different story for English, who once built a career co-founding startup companies fighting climate change.
“I am also a passionate fisherman with a degree in Integrative Biology, so it only made sense that I ended up in the fish world. That said, I wasn’t always a proponent of aquaculture given my upbringing in the Northwest where ‘wild’ reigns supreme. But I recognized the importance of what aquaculture means for the future of the planet, wild fish, and a healthy diet and now I’m hooked.”
A company that values good and good quality
“Do good when nobody is watching is probably the value that sticks with me,” says English. “Our values are constantly guiding me and others to do the right thing at this company. We don’t take shortcuts. During my four years in sustainability with Riverence, we have made significant strides in fish health and improvements in environmental quality as well as community involvement and employee benefits. Our goal has always been to create a company where people and environment are respected.”
Lowe agrees, adding that “Riverence’s company values guide my day every day while I am working. Encouragement is my favorite value as it celebrates the team inclusion and diversity of every person who works at Riverence.”
“Animal welfare and product quality are some of the most essential standards I emphasize with my team,” says Sturdevant. “Without the proper animal welfare practices, our sustainability goals could never be met. Happy fish allow for the success of our company, ultimately allowing us to produce only clean and successful products.”
By producing eggs and fish on land and in clear spring water, Riverence is able to deliver high quality, responsible products with minimal environmental impact. Their carefully monitored land-based production system means no escapes (which can negatively impact wild fish populations and disturb local biodiversity) year-round consistency, and an ability to have full control over their aquatic environments.
From hatch to harvest
“We’re a vertically integrated company from egg to distribution, but we started on fish genetics before all else,” says English. “Aquaculture genetics have long been far behind those of other protein productions, so we set off to change that through very careful selection.”
Riverence also operates a state-of-the-art facility in Washington state that allows them to breed and select the highest quality, non-GMO eggs for their farms’ future trout production.
“Genetics are one of the three pillars of health, so it is critical we started improving them while we also worked on nutrition and environment,” English continues. “In 2017, we completely revamped the feed to minimize our impact and provide much better nutrition to develop healthy immune systems and strong skeletal structures. Our fish eat well and swim in some of the clearest water on the planet.”
“Our site in Washington differs from our sites in Magic Valley,” adds Sturdevant, who found her niche in Riverence’s incubation and shipping department.
“We are a brood facility with 90% recirculating aquaculture systems (RAS). RAS allows the use of less water in our day-to-day farming practices. Our trout families are genetically selected to be the best egg-producing fish. This means we stock less fish on-site, use less water, and get a better quality egg. We strive for quality over quantity.”
Working in harmony
“One of the things that attracted me to the aquaculture industry, especially Riverence, was their dedication to sustainability and conservation,” Sturdevant admits. “Unlike many agricultural systems, there is a symbiotic relationship between our product and the environment. Fish is the most sustainable animal protein source, and I am excited to be a part of that.”
Sturdevant holds a degree in Animal Science and came to Riverence four years ago after first working in the dairy industry.
“Working for a company that values environmental and social sustainability is extremely important to me,” adds English. “I know that I have buy-in at the ownership level that supports initiatives necessary to facilitate monumental change – I don’t have to fight for it.”
“Achieving ASC certification means that our entire process from social to environmental to employee safety has been validated. It also means we meet or exceed the best trout farming practices of today.”
“By taking care of our resources, we are not only promoting better products in nature, but we are also working to improve the land for future use while simultaneously feeding the world a healthy protein source,” says Lowe. “ASC certification means we can give our customers and partners the peace of mind that we take every action and consideration in promoting good practices while raising a great source of nutrition.”
Straight from the farm to your fork
Idaho-raised steelhead trout has a tender, flaky texture and a milder flavor profile than salmon, making it an easy win even for new seafood eaters. Cooked fillets are incredible when baked, grilled, pan-fried whole or flaked fresh into salads.
For Sturdevant, it’s all about the dip. “Hands down, absolutely my Smoked Trout Dip. This is a party favorite, and I love to entertain family and friends. This starts with our Riverence smoked trout, cream cheese, sour cream, fresh lemon juice, fresh dill, fresh garlic, hot sauce, salt/pepper and my secret ingredient, horseradish! Whip in a blender and serve with veggies and sliced baguette.”
English prefers a simple yet flavorful method that’s incredibly simple to achieve at home. “My favorite way of cooking trout is to barbeque it on a cedar plank. The cedar imparts a traditional Northwest-style flavor to the trout and it’s stunningly delicious. Simply soak a cedar plank for an hour, place the trout on top with olive oil salt and pepper and grill for 5 minutes on medium high. That’s it!”
You can find Riverence’s premium steelhead and rainbow trout products at restaurants and retailers throughout the U.S., including H-E-B, Hy-Vee, Giant Foods, Ingles Markets, Harris Teeter, Wegmans and New Seasons Markets.
Try more trout recipes from Riverence below:
Almond Stuffed Rainbow Trout
Pecan Crusted Trout with Sweet Potatoes and String Beans
Rainbow Trout Fettuccine Alfredo
It was over a decade ago that the first fish farm in the world earned ASC certification: Regal Springs’ Lake Toba tilapia farm in Sumatra, Indonesia.
Since then, more than 1,700 aquaculture farms around the world have become certified under ASC’s leading global standards. That represents nearly 2.5 million tons of seafood and seaweed harvested per year. This is a vital and ongoing transformation toward environmental and social responsibility for the aquaculture industry. But it all began with one fish.
Tasty, healthy tilapia
Tilapia is a fish with many health benefits and environmental credentials. High in protein and low in calories, tilapia is a good source of omega fatty acids, containing more omega-3’s per serving than beef, chicken or pork. It also provides a rich supply of nutrients from vitamins B12, C and E to calcium, magnesium, potassium, phosphorous, selenium, niacin, folate and more.
According to the Seafood Nutrition Partnership (SNP), “Seafood gets straight A’s” and tilapia is a top student.
“Research shows that seafood nutrition benefits children of all ages. That’s why the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and American Academy of Pediatrics both say kids should eat fish at least twice a week. Many seafood varieties have a mild flavor that suits a variety of your children’s favorite dishes. White fish like tilapia is great in tacos, quesadillas, pasta dishes and more.”
Tilapia is a low-mercury fish that is versatile, affordable to buy at the grocery store and easy to cook with. Its mild, delicate taste makes it a great choice for new seafood eaters and pescatarians, alike, while allowing fillets to take on flavor from whatever ingredients you enjoy using.
Regal Springs’ Marketing Manager Elizabeth Halle loves to cook with tilapia to that very point of ease of incorporation into any dish.
“There are options for every type of eater when it comes to tilapia,” says Halle. “It cooks quickly, takes on flavors well, and come out of the oven super tender. I know that I can make something that my 2-year-old daughter or my parents would love.”
Fish raised right
Tilapia has historically been of major importance to artisanal fishing and is now widely farmed in locations around the world because of its adaptability to a variety of environments.
Today, Regal Springs’ Lake Toba farm continues to abide by ASC’s certification standards, while achieving additional certification at farm sites in Honduras and Mexico.
“At Regal Springs we are very proud to have been a pioneer here,” says Petra Weigl, Regal Springs’ Managing Director for Europe.
“ASC certification brings us a host of benefits” adds Rudolf Hoeffelman, Managing Director Regal Springs Indonesia. “Well-organized data, which we share transparently through ASC audits and reporting; improved traceability, from feed to harvest, with the coming ASC Feed Standard that will drive even more improvements in feed sourcing at our farms; and continued improvements in social responsibility internally and with external parties.”
Regal Springs We Care sustainability program now spans a host of community and environmental welfare projects, indirectly supporting as many as 100,000 people.
Caretakers of the ecosystem
Regal Springs’ Indonesian tilapia farms sit directly in Lake Toba, the world’s largest volcanic lake. The lake, located in North Sumatra, covers more than 400 square miles, plunging to depths of nearly 1,600 feet. Deep, clean water is key to healthy local communities, healthy biodiversity and healthy tilapia. Regal Springs pays careful attention to protecting the gorgeous freshwater ecosystem of the region.
“We use floating cages that have very little impact on the natural lake environment,” says Weigl. “We continuously monitor the water quality to ensure it remains oxygen-rich and undisturbed by the farm’s activities. Among other factors that high water quality directly influences is the quality of Regal Springs tilapia, making it strong and healthy, and ensuring that we can totally forgo the use of additives.”
Regal Springs adheres to a zero waste or “whole fish” policy. Only about one-third of a whole tilapia is used for the fillets or loin cuts generally found at the grocery store. The remainder of their fish – skin, scales, bones, liver and more – is put to use in other industries. Rather than simply discarding unused portions of fish, Lake Toba tilapia contribute to dietary supplements, pharmaceuticals, cosmetics, fertilizers and even fish leather. Regal Springs also repurposes its tilapia fish oil into biofuel that powers some of their trucks and other equipment.
Hand in hand with local community
Regal Springs employs more than 400 people, making it one of the largest employers in the Lake Toba region. ASC certification requires they meet not only robust environmental criteria, but strong social responsibility standards covering fair wages and working hours, health and safety requirements, forming of workers’ unions, collaboration with local communities, and more.
Regal Springs’ social welfare commitments include providing a health insurance plan and hot meals, company health clinics, and free healthcare for employees, their families and nearby villages.
Teaching, literacy education and reforestation efforts, among other community engagement projects lead by Regal Springs.
Shop with purpose
“Regal Springs takes enormous pride in rearing our tilapia to the highest standards for the benefit of customers, fish lovers, foodies and, above all, in safeguarding our precious home – planet earth,” says Halle. “Look for the Regal Springs® logo and ASC’s sea green label when buying tilapia to ensure these high standards have been met.”
The next time you’re in the meat or seafood aisle, consider giving tilapia a try. It offers a simple, nutritious and family-friendly fish experience that you can feel good about. Shopping for ASC’s sea green label means your fish can be traced from shelf all the way back to the farm where it was responsibly raised.
For tips on doing the most with your tilapia, ASC and friends have cooked up some great ideas:
Banana Leaf Grilled Tilapia Veracruz
From Chef Nikki Stover
Oven Roasted Tilapia with Pumpkin Seed Tomatillo Sauce
From Regal Springs
Tilapia Eggs Benedict
From Regal Springs
Pistachio and Tortilla Crusted Tilapia with Chile Lime Sauce
From the Seafood Nutrition Partnership
From the Seafood Nutrition Partnership
How do you know if the seafood you buy is responsibly raised?
There’s no doubt our love of seafood is growing, and it’s easy to see why. Not only are fish, shellfish and seaweed amazingly tasty, they also contribute to healthy lifestyles and immune function. Many types of seafood are rich in easily digested protein, omega-3s, vitamins and minerals to support our hearts, brains and bodies. These blue foods are also an incredibly efficient way to produce the protein needed to feed our growing world.
The great news for seafood lovers is that there are a multitude of seafood products available in stores and restaurants today – from fresh, cook-your-own fillets to value added, flavor-packed meals that make for easy weeknight dinners. It’s common to see a lot of ecolabels when shopping in the seafood aisle, but it’s important to look for a good quality third-party certification program and to know what’s behind the label.
Not all farmed seafood is the same and neither are certifications. The hard part is determining what’s best to add to your plate.
As we celebrate National Seafood Month and the important role aquatic foods play in our lives, we know you have questions about what aquaculture is, how it can contribute to a responsible food supply and what it means to purchase and prepare certified seafood products.
We’re excited to share answers with help from experts Kathrin Steinberg and Sophie Ryan. Steinberg leads the research team and is part of the standards and science department here at Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC), while Ryan is CEO of the Global Salmon Initiative (GSI). Both focus on bringing quality and integrity to your seafood supply.
What is aquaculture?
Aquaculture is the practice of farming seafood. It’s like agriculture, but done with fish, shellfish and seaweed. Farmers who practice aquaculture breed and harvest plants and animals in water – freshwater or salt water – recreating natural cycles on the farm.
Aquaculture also happens to be the world’s fastest growing food-producing sector and already plays a crucial role in helping to feed our planet as populations grows. From the 1960s to 2020, consumption of aquatic food per capita grew from an average of 9.0 kg to 20.2 kg. Today, aquaculture produces over 50% of the seafood we eat in the United States and worldwide.
What is responsible aquaculture?
The bigger the aquaculture industry becomes, the more impacts it can have. That’s why it’s important to look for seafood that is certified as responsibly raised when shopping. When done responsibly, the benefits of aquaculture go beyond a strong food supply.
Just as with any farming – from chicken to cattle to corn – many considerations must be made when it comes to care of the environment and surrounding habitats, animal feed and welfare, chemical use, affects on surrounding communities, and so much more. ASC certification ensures the strictest standards are being followed on the seafood farms and also throughout the entire supply chain to the store.
Responsible aquaculture can help rebuild populations of threatened and endangered species, restore habitats and boost wild stocks of aquatic species. You can be sure your seafood was raised responsibly when it bears the sea green label.
“Standards like ASC’s focus on environmental and social issues to ensure the current growth is responsible,” says ASC’s Kathrin Steinberg. “It’s our mission to help the industry play its crucial part in feeding the population, while respecting the planet and its people. We also want to help minimize the industry’s impact on climate change and protect fish welfare.”
What’s the difference between wild and farmed seafood? Is one better?
Wild-caught seafood come from wild habitats i.e., lakes, oceans, rivers, and typically consume a diet found in that environment.
In aquaculture, farmed seafood can also be raised in lakes, oceans, rivers and even on land, but as with all farmed animals, they are cared for in a more controlled way. Many species of seafood thrive on farms, especially when raised with care in a responsible manner. Their diets vary depending on the type of fish being farmed, location and other factors, but consist of a special blend of feed formulated by nutritionists, delivered in specific amounts needed for optimal growth and nutrition.
“Salmon feed is typically comprised of plant-based ingredients, fish-based ingredients (including fishmeal, fish oil and fish protein), as well as vitamins, minerals, amino acids and astaxanthin, an antioxidant. This antioxidant supports fish immune health and gives salmon its iconic “salmon” hue. This diet also replicates wild salmon’s omnivorous diet,” offers Sophie Ryan of GSI.
“One of the biggest evolutions in salmon feed is a shift from using only fish-based ingredients to also using plant-based ingredients, like algae or canola oils. This is a positive – and much-needed – development because it means we can supplement the use of wild fish stocks and lower farmed salmon feed’s natural resource use, all while supporting farmed salmon health, welfare and nutritional benefits.”
ASC’s new Feed Standard ensures that 100% of ingredients used in feeding farmed seafood will be sustainably sourced.
So, while there’s a world of difference in their habitats, the fact is both wild and farmed seafood can yield quality products when managed responsibly and sustainably. With 33% of wild fish stocks having already reached their biological limit due to overfishing, these methods must coexist to meet global demand.
Instead of choosing between wild or farmed, the better answer is to look for certified seafood with a label you can trust – ASC sea green for farmed seafood and the MSC blue fish label for wild-caught. Striking a balance between two good options means more variety for your plate and more ways to shop responsibly.
What makes ASC certification stand out?
ASC is the only aquaculture certification program that can verify your farmed seafood is what it claims to be, where it came from, how it was raised and how it got to you. This is because ASC standards are the strictest and most responsible in the world. For example, some certifiers don’t include farms in their chain of custody tracking or don’t make unannounced inspections at farms. ASC does this and much more through independent, third-party auditors.
ASC is also implementing new technologies and innovations to ensure better traceability of seafood, including exciting advancements like Trace Element Fingerprinting (TEF), which can verify seafood origin back to the farm with more than 95% accuracy.
All of this attention to detail helps protect the quality and safety of the seafood that ultimately reaches your grocery store shelves. It also preserves aquatic organisms in the environment, while protecting farm workers, wildlife and surrounding neighborhoods.
The result is quality products, proud farmers and strong communities.
“What I’ve found most interesting to see is that the certification has a positive impact on the fish and shrimp consumption in the area, derived from improved pond management and healthy consumption of the farmed and other aquatic-dwelling species in the local community. On top of that, the farmers are usually so proud of what they have achieved,” says Steinberg who has personally observed many farm audits.
What does the sea green ASC label mean?
Higher quality, greater transparency, safer products and, ultimately, peace of mind knowing that what you’re eating has a positive impact on people and our planet.
“I am always happy to see the ASC label in a store because it symbolizes how responsible aquaculture can play a major role in supplying food and social benefits for all of us, while minimizing negative impacts on the environment,” says Steinberg.
“Responsibly farmed salmon is a safe and healthy choice,” adds Ryan. “Farmed salmon is recommended as a “best choice” seafood by the Food & Drug Administration of the United States (FDA) because it’s low in mercury, but high in health benefits. What’s more: farm-raised salmon has just as much or more of the omega-3 fatty acids than wild-caught. Shopping with the ASC label in mind is an easy way to know you’re getting all of these benefits from fish raised in the most responsible way.”
How can you make a difference?
Look for the sea green ASC label in stores and at restaurants. If you don’t see it – ask for it! Cook with ASC or MSC-certified seafood whenever possible. There are delicious recipes for everything from salmon and shrimp to tilapia and kanpachi. Try them all during National Seafood Month and in the following months to come!
This is not your mother’s tinned seafood.
In fact, it might be closer to your great-great-grandmother’s. Most sources agree that the art of canning fish was pioneered in the early 1800s by Nicolas Appert, an experimental French chef who came to the government’s aid in exchange for a hefty cash prize. France was at war with limited access to ports and this meant more traditional methods of preserving seafood, such as drying, smoking and pickling, were not holding up.
Appert’s success catapulted the seafood industry into a whole new ballgame, with tinned seafood becoming an essential commodity that would go on to feed not just French troops, but generations around the world. Today, we regard the tuna sandwich as an American staple, synonymous with apple pie only much less exciting.
It’s true that seafood in a can, tin or otherwise considered “processed” hasn’t always lived a glamorous lifestyle in the U.S. The same characteristics that once made it valuable as a durable source of protein caused consumers to banish it to the bottom shelf in exchange for items they viewed as fresher and more nutritious.
But that perception – and tinned seafood as we know it – is changing before our eyes.
The Comeback Can
In recent years, we’ve watched products historically relegated to the back of the pantry transform into trendsetting and tasteful meals worthy of the savviest seafoodie’s attention. The drab cans of days gone by are being outshined by colorful, flavor-packed tins boasting a range of seafoods – from Thai Sriracha tuna to Moroccan spiced salmon. And we’re here for it.
The Seafood Nutrition Partnership (SNP) notes that tinned fish became a “Covid kitchen craze rivaling sourdough, beans and meal kits because it’s a ready-to-eat convenience and a shelf-stable pantry item.” According to SNP, stocking up your ‘cantry’ is one of the easiest and most affordable ways to add seafood to your diet.
The appeal of these modernized all-in-one meals has rapidly spread from the culinary in-crowd to anyone looking for a quick, healthy bite with minimum prep and maximum flavor. A well-stocked stash makes hiking go bags, school lunches and last minute apps a cinch.
Seafood companies have seized the moment, showing evermore creativity when it comes to flavors, innovative packing techniques and more responsible sourcing.
“During our travels in Portugal over 5 years ago sourcing Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certified sardines, we discovered the quality of European tinned seafood,” says Henry Lovejoy, who together with his wife Lisa co-founded the New Hampshire-based EcoFish and recently launched their line of Freshé brand certified seafood tins. “We had an epiphany, why couldn’t you pack gorgeous fresh vegetables, beans, olive oil and spices in a tin (with a 4-year shelf life), with certified sustainable seafood?”
The answer is: you can. “We got to work with a celebrity chef to design global flavor profiles and the rest is history.” Freshé tins are now available in the canned fish aisles at over 2,700 grocery stores nationwide can be ordered online at Amazon.com and Walmart.com.
Perhaps not coincidentally, tins are trending in tandem with an important sustainability conversation. People are asking more questions about where their seafood is coming from. Was it fished or farmed in a responsible way? Is it safe to eat? And, of course – can it really taste good if it comes from a can?
Since the canned seafood market is expected to reach $54.77 billion by 2028, these are good questions to be asking.
Tin It to Win It
Freshé’s ASC-certified salmon meals won Canned Meat Product of the Year at the 2022 Mindful Awards, while their Moroccan Tagine was honored with People’s 2022 Food Award for Best Tinned Seafood in the Pantry Staples category. Further proof that modern seafood tins hit a sweet spot when quality, creativity and sustainability coexist.
“We were the first brand in the U.S. to commit to 100% certified sustainable seafood 23 years ago,” says Lovejoy. “We started working with the MSC in 2000, as their first U.S. certified sustainable seafood distributor. Sustainability is in our blood, that’s why we go to work every day.” ASC was founded in 2010 and shares its Chain of Custody program with MSC.
When it came to selecting farmed seafood for their new line of tins Lovejoy adds, “The ASC is the most credible certification for responsibly farmed seafood, it was a no-brainer.”
“The salmon we use is from an ASC-certified salmon farm in Norway. Norway literally invented salmon farming and our farm is doing it the right way, with minimal impact on the surrounding environment. We pack a whole salmon fillet in the tin, then we add the veggies and spices. The entire recipe is then cooked in the tin, creating amazing flavor profiles.”
Delicious and Nutritious
So what’s in a tin? Dozens of companies have stepped up their game with chef collaborations and seasoning combinations that would make a sardine blush.
The Lovejoys leaned into their appreciation for international cuisine and the high-quality, artisanal seafood tins still produced in regions of Spain and Portugal. “We prioritize Iberian ingredients whenever possible. Some items like spices need to come from other parts of the world, where they are grown. Many of the vegetables and the olive oil come from local producers. Freshé meals epitomize the healthy Mediterranean Diet. Our canner is the ‘greenest’ cannery in the world, utilizing solar panels and a biomass facility that burns olive pits to power the factory.”
SNP reminds us that nutrition guidelines recommend eating seafood at least twice a week. Access to versatile pre-packed options makes it easier to reach this goal and keeps things interesting in the kitchen.
“Canned seafood such as salmon, sardines, anchovies, mackerel, herring, tuna, crab and clams are excellent sources of omega-3s. However, seafood is not just filled with omega-3s,” offers Jessica Miller, SNP’s Nutrition Communications Manager. “Seafood includes other vital nutrients optimal for overall health and wellness, such as selenium, iron, vitamin B-6 and B-12 and protein. Canned, tinned and pouched seafood is a perfect way to get at least one of these servings into a quick and easy meal or snack. They are prepared, high-quality proteins that are easy to add to your weekly menu and are budget-friendly options.”
Whether you’re sitting down to plan an extravagant spread or running out the door, there’s a tinned seafood for that! Here are a few foolproof ways to hop on the canned-wagon:
- Serve meals over fresh spinach for tasty two-step salad
- Add to a bed of warm quinoa and drizzle with olive oil
- Create a seacuterie board that’s dressed to impress
- Top off a tapas spread with Mediterranean flair
- Skip right to chips and dip, with a twist
- For the active, outdoorsy or just plain busy, solo tins are a perfect grab ‘n go for camping, hiking, road tripping and kid-friendly snacks. Toss in a pack of crackers and you’re good to go!
Look for the Label
Making good choices about where our food comes from and how it was raised is always on-trend. In the case of seafood and even other proteins, this often works in conjunction with our health and wellbeing.
As the canned aisles of grocery stores become increasingly packed with new and exciting seafood choices, selecting products with ASC’s sea green label assures the tin you’re taking home is the most responsible choice for you, your family and the planet, too.
- Learn about the meaning behind Our Label
- Browse our recipes for more ways to cook with certified seafood
- Get to know Freshé and their commitment to certified seafood on The Story of A Brand podcast
It’s Taco Time!
The Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) and partners served up nearly 4,000 grilled, ASC-certified shrimp tacos to attendees at the 2022 Twin Cities GrillFest this past weekend.
ASC’s pop-up was the first of more than a dozen events the non-profit will be holding in Minneapolis, Philadelphia and Miami this year as part of its “New Way to Seafood” promotion to introduce to U.S. consumers the purpose of ASC certification and the meaning behind its sea green certification label on seafood products.
At the May 21-22 GrillFest, ASC partnered with Fortune Fish & Gourmet’s Coastal Seafoods to serve up grilled tacos made with Del Pacifico Seafood’s Pacific White farmed shrimp to thousands of guests, communicating the positive impacts of responsible aquaculture and ASC’s certification program.
ASC’s booth was one of the most popular at the perennial Twin Cities festival, held at the CHS Field baseball park, with the line for tacos never less than 20, and attendees soaking up information about ASC’s highest seafood standards under the springtime Twin Cities sun.
ASC’s 2022 local market activations will continue throughout the year in select cities, including Minneapolis, with new pop-ups featured at restaurants, grocery stores and additional food festivals. Events conclude in Miami, Oct. 20-23, where ASC will serve and present at the world-renowned South Beach Seafood Festival.
Find the recipe for Coastal Seafoods’ legendary Blackened Shrimp Tacos here.
Catch more of the latest ASC happenings on our blog
A Responsible Guide to Wine and Seafood Pairing
The worlds of wine and seafood are wide, but they have a lot in common when sustainability is on the table. According to the Wine Institute, U.S. wine drinkers consumed over three gallons of wine on average in 2021, while Americans overall enjoyed more than 19 pounds of seafood per person, with the consumption of farmed seafood rising rapidly.
Just as wine grapes are grown in vast conditions around the world, farming seafood can take on many forms, including special care for species in different regions and variations in farming techniques and innovations. The term merroir, inspired by terroir, has become commonplace in describing the essential, regional flavors of high-quality seafood.
“In wine, terroir is the concept that flavor is derived from a sense of place. The terrain, soil, sunlight, water or even the climate. All of the things that contribute to wine’s unique provenance beyond just the grape varietal,” says Jennifer Bushman, Chief Creative officer at Kvaroy Arctic, an ASC-certified Norwegian salmon farm.
“In French, the word mer means sea, and so the term merroir has been adopted to describe a sense of terroir for oysters and other types of fish and seafood. That each species is intimately impacted by the body of water it comes from, the algae it feeds on, the strength of currents and tides, the mineral content of the seafloor, the season and more. “
Whether you shop for wine in your local grocery aisle, specialty store or online, you’ve likely seen signs for “organic,” “biodynamic” and “sustainable” appearing more and more. These aren’t just buzzwords, but indicate techniques in the farming and winemaking process, from no pesticides or added sulfites (organic) to special soil preparations and lunar cycles (biodynamic) to emphasis on resource management and community (sustainable).
You may be wondering: what does any of this have to do with farmed seafood? More than you might think!
Just as the wine industry is evolving to explore definitions of “sustainability” and examine farming practices more closely, seafood farming – also known as aquaculture – has grown into a tech-forward, trailblazing industry with an increased focus on responsibility toward the environment, our communities, and in helping us know exactly what’s on our plate and where it came from.
“In fish and seafood, we not only have an incredible partner in the wines that we choose to pair with the dishes, but we also have a perfect partner when it comes to sustainability,” adds Bushman. “Grape growing can be an environmentally friendly practice just as rearing a fish can.”
In honor of National Wine Day, we asked the experts to break down their favorite wine and seafood pairings – including the lessons in sustainability they’ve learned along the way.
The New Way to Seafood & Wine
Chef Kiki Aranita, James Beard-nominated writer and Owner of Poi Dog Sauces, is a food lover who is serious about sustainability. “When it comes to salmon, every bit is usable and delicious,” says Aranita. “We don’t let any of it go to waste, making the skin into chips, the bones into broth, the head into curry. I have the same approach to wine – every drop is usable and delicious.”
Aranita opts to pair a very Dry Rosé or an Oregon Pinot Noir with her salmon – you can find her current favorite bottle here: 2020 Meinklang “Prosa” Dry Frizzante Rosé.
“Crispy salmon skin also goes beautifully with wine!” exclaims Aranita, keeping in line with the whole-fish theme. “My husband and I savor the salmon skins as much as salmon flesh and I toast them until totally crisp in the oven, salt them, keep them in an airtight container and sometimes, right before serving, I’ll pop them in an air fryer.”
ASC-certified Skuna Bay Salmon is a favorite among chefs for being craft raised in pristine waters and deliciously easy to cook with. “Salmon is so versatile, the possibilities are endless,” notes Skuna Bay’s General Manager Max Depondt. “Personally, I like to keep it simple and respect a nice piece of fish, so it’s actually everything else that determines the wine. A simple sear with fresh asparagus on the side? Try a Dry Riesling or minerally Sauvignon Blanc. Grilling over open fire with a lot of spice or seasoning? I’m probably thinking red wine for that.”
Depondt has a soft spot for Dry Riesling or Muscadet with salmon at the helm. “For most of my life, part of my family Christmas tradition was a seafood and pasta dinner on Christmas Eve, and my French grandfather always insisted on Muscadet from Alsace for this occasion. So I have extended it to be my go-to with many salmon dishes, although I think salmon works with most types of wine if you really want it to.”
Depondt nominates the Oysterman collaboration as a current favorite. A portion of sales revenue from this stainless steel-aged Loire Valley Muscadet is donated to various conservation organizations dedicated to revitalizing coastal ecosystems through oyster bed replenishment. It’s a win-win!
Wine and seafood can both be a bit intimidating for newcomers, yet Depondt warns against shying away.
“Salmon is really easy to cook – you can do it! This is by far the biggest question Skuna Bay customers have in retail situations. I am always preaching that you don’t have to be a professional to cook salmon and enjoy the outcome.”
Depondt offers additional encouragement: “If you are reading this, thank you for making the effort to learn about sustainable aquaculture. Now go tell your friends! Our future food and climate security literally depend on it. Maybe you can cook them a tasty dish of high-quality, ASC-certified salmon to spark the discussion.” Get started with Skuna Bay’s chef-approved collection of easy salmon recipes.
If you’re not familiar with kanpachi, we’ve got you covered. This member of the Amberjack family has a clean, fresh, and subtle flavor profile with firm flesh and slightly pink coloration that is prized by chefs, making it ideal for sushi preparations and fine dining. The Hawaiian Kanpachi™ raised by Blue Ocean Mariculture, ASC’s first certified finfish farm in the U.S., is no stranger to wine.
“I always recommend people drink the wine they like, no matter the food. But it is true that white wines go best with light, flaky fish,” offers Dick Jones, CEO of Blue Ocean Mariculture and wine afficionado. “Our Hawaiian Kanpachi is a bit heartier and pairs nicely with a Pinot Noir. If I want something lighter, I would pair our fish with a Sauvignon Blanc from Napa Valley or New Zealand, or perhaps a cold, crisp Rosé. All that being said, I’ve enjoyed a hearty Cabernet Sauvignon with kanpachi, it’s all about the experience!”
When it comes to kanpachi, there is plenty to experience. Jones’s go-to dish is Kanpachi Puttanesca. “I make the sauce separately, then quickly sear the kanpachi loin and place it in the puttanesca. I then place it in the oven for 15 minutes. The preparation matches nicely with a big Cab, which is my favorite. I’m all about New World wines, and I love Napa Valley, so I might uncork a BV Cabernet Sauvignon with this dish.”
For those in a lighter mood, Hawaiian Kanpachi Piccata may be just the ticket. Jones cooks the loin piccata-style using white wine as the base of the lemon-butter-caper sauce. He then pairs the same white wine with the dish when serving. Using wine in the sauce ties the whole dish together.
“I am a big fan of Honig Wines,” adds Jones. “They are a family-run winery that cares about sustainable production, including a lens on packaging, energy use and water use. They produce great wines, including a clean, crisp Sauvignon Blanc that pairs so nicely with Hawaiian Kanpachi!”
A familiar player on the seafood scene, shrimp can be suited to every palate and there is almost always a wine that fits right alongside it. ASC recently partnered with Coastal Seafoods serving up ASC-certified shrimp tacos at the Twin Cities GrillFest. Naturally, we tapped their Director of New Business Development, Kelly Cosgrove – a former wine & spirits director – to get the skinny on shrimp.
Her go-to for this delectable crustacean? Albariño or bubbles (Champagne, Cremant, or Cava).
“Albariño generally is bright citrus with a little honeysuckle and can be medium-bodied but with a great acidity and finishes with some salinity, which I find goes well with many shrimp dishes,” says Cosgrove.
“For bubbles, I generally stick to a drier style of bubbles, made by methode champenoise. While the weight and flavors can change by producer, the lively bubbles and acidity make it an easy pairing. Plus, I always feel a little fancy with bubbles.”
Cosgrove tells us that Shrimp Ceviche with a glass of Cava is her perfect pick. “When at home I prefer to use Del Pacifico’s ASC-certified raw shell-off shrimp, and I add a little Aji Amarillo paste to help give it heat and a little more of that authentic Peruvian flair (both products are available in Coastal Seafoods retail stores). It pairs great with a glass of Cava that I find refreshing, fun, and a great way to start any amazing meal.”
But that’s not all – Cosgrove has the classics covered, too. “I also love Shrimp Scampi, one of the few dishes my mom liked to cook, paired with a Vermentino. Again, I prefer the flavor of the ASC-certified Del Pacifico shrimp dripping in butter, or Ashman’s Shrimp Scampi marinade which elevates a good scampi and expedites getting the shrimp to the table. That’s hard to beat and the Vermentino tends to be medium to full-bodied while remaining crisp and citrusy, which stands up to the sauce and helps to balance the richness of all that beautiful butter!”
Her top choices to make your shrimp sing include La Cana ‘Navia,’ an Albariño from Spain, and another Spanish favorite, Champillon Secret Reserva, Brut Nature.
Cosgrove also likes to consider where the wine is made. If it’s near the sea – like Rias Baixas in Spain, parts of Provence in France, Santorini in Greece – there’s a good chance seafood is a large part of the cuisine and naturally pairs well.
“I also think about the type of seafood I’m eating and try to go like-with-like – an oily fish, I’ll generally look for a fuller bodied white wine (Chardonnay, Viognier, Marsanne, etc.), or lighter bodied reds (Pinot Noir, Gamay, Frappato); crisp oysters tend to be great with minerally and higher acid wines (Muscadet, Sauvignon Blanc). But, bubbles are always a perfect pairing in my opinion!”
She offers two big pieces of advice for diving into wine and seafood:
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions and for recommendations – I do it all the time! Letting either the server or wine merchant know what you’re cooking or ordering, what you like to drink, and a price range, helps them give their best recommendations. Wine lists and selections are always changing, and the people working will be more familiar with their lists, and most will know some facts about the winemakers, flavor profiles, and how they produce the wine in terms of sustainability.
- Drink what you like! Do you want to drink a full-bodied juicy Zinfandel while eating oysters because that’s what you like? Do it and don’t let anyone make you feel bad. At the end of the day, you’re the one enjoying the seafood and wine, and if it makes you happy, that’s really all that matters.
Barramundi (a.k.a. Asian Sea Bass)
Barramundi is a hearty yet delicate white fish native to Australia and the Indo-Pacific. This ancient species is renowned for its versatility, offering a clean, buttery flavor and meaty texture that appeals to seafood experts and novices alike.
Australis Aquaculture (The Better Fish®) is an ASC-certified producer spearheading the global emergence of best-in-class, ocean-farmed barramundi as a healthy, environmentally-friendly fish for the future. Barramundi has the highest omega-3s of any white fish, is lean yet protein packed, and plays well with a wide selection of wines. Even better, Australis farms their barramundi in a way that is climate-smart and supports the recovery of wild fisheries.
So what to drink with this up-and-coming seafood star? Julie Qiu, Marketing Director for The Better Fish®, has some ideas.
“I’ve been on a Spanish white wine kick! So Albariño, Verdejo, and Txakoli. I had the opportunity to visit Txomin Etxaniz last summer and love their Txakoli.”
Qiu recommends a Spicy Corn Roasted Barramundi Ceviche – “an easy and fun summer dish to pair with a sparkling white. I make it at home using this recipe.”
The Better Fish® teamed up with Blue Apron’s Culinary Director on a wine pairing blog that deep dives into the flavor profile of barramundi and its spirited counterparts. Click here to learn more about How to Choose the Right Wine for Barramundi.
Qiu urges those new to pairing wine with barramundi, “leave your assumptions at the door and try unconventional ideas out. It may sound weird, but the results may surprise you (in a good way)!”
Seaweed and More
Seaweed may not be the first seafood that comes to mind when you’re uncorking a bottle, but it would be impossible to ignore this trending superfood. Jennifer Bushman is a huge proponent of serving seaweed – check out her Top 10 Ways to Eat Seaweed Beyond Sushi for inspiration.
“When it comes to pairing seaweed with wine,” says Bushman, “the species of seaweed and the preparation will best determine the wine that goes with it. Generally, I have found that a dry crisp sparkling wine will work well. One that has not been aged too long on the lees. I like the Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs, made from 100% Chardonnay. The other option is to have a wine that contrasts with the seaweed. Like in the case of a spicy food, a pairing that would go well with the seaweed would be the Dough Wines Sauvignon Blanc.”
Bushman advises all seafood lovers to choose their own “House” wine. “For us, it is the Schramsberg Blanc de Blancs or Rosé. We keep several bottles on ice in the fridge to pour after work or to hand carry to a special occasion! This Blanc de Blancs has aromas of Granny Smith apple, lemon-lime and even a fresh baked bread. While this wine can be enjoyed by itself as an apéritif, it is perfect with fresh oysters and other shellfish, crab cakes, ceviche and grilled sea bass. It is also delicious with lemon chicken and Thai curries. Serve with aged Gouda or other hard cheeses, and as a counterpoint to soft triple crèmes.”
Her favorite dishes to pair?
“Creating a great fish taco has been the envy of many cooks, but it’s actually quite simple! Start out with a beautiful fillet – one of my absolute favorites is ASC-certified Kvaroy Arctic salmon, a sustainably-raised salmon from the Arctic Circle. Bread it cold and fry it just before you’re ready to place it into the taco shell. Serve this with your favorite coleslaw and the kelp lime mayonnaise for a perfect finish. It pairs well with either a sparkling wine or a lovely Sauvignon Blanc!” Find Bushman’s taco recipe here.
In keeping with the unexpected, Bushman also suggests accenting Kvaroy Arctic’s popular ASC-certified salmon burgers with a tasteful seaweed-and-wine combo. “I love to take a kelp puree and blend it with mayonnaise and a bit of fresh lemon juice. Fry or sauté the burger and serve on a toasted bun with all of your favorite toppings, the kelp mayo and a Pinot Noir, preferably from the central coast of California!”
Try this quick and tasty salmon burger recipe with a glass of 2017 Kosta Browne Santa Lucia Highlands Pinot Noir.
Eating and Drinking Responsibly
Like wine, seafood that is responsibly farmed with care demonstrates the best of what we can cultivate on the farm, in our communities and at the table. Being conscientious about our choices does not mean we have to sacrifice flavor, quality or our health.
“Start with what you already know and enjoy,” suggests Jones. “Pair the wine you like most with your favorite seafood, and next time, if the wine you like most is a red, try a white! You’ll begin to learn what you truly like, and what wine goes best with your favorite seafood. Once you’ve got the pairing figured out, you can research how your wine and seafood act as responsible advocates for sustainable practices. An easy way to start is to look for the ASC logo!”
Visit our recipes page to explore meal ideas for all of these ASC-certified species and more!
Strengthen Your System with Seafood
While our immune systems are naturally great at defending against microorganisms, sometimes germs invade, and we find ourselves dealing with illness. Age, nutrition, stress levels and sleep habits all contribute to our body’s ability to fight diseases and promote healing.
Eating healthy foods regularly is one way to gain proactive protection. Seafood is especially impactful because it contains a multitude of micronutrients that strengthen your immune system and help your heart function properly.
“Seafood is a rich source of high quality, easily digested protein, omega-3s, vitamins and minerals, which are all essential for maintaining optimal health and immune function,” explains Jessica Miller, registered dietitian and nutrition communications manager for the Seafood Nutrition Partnership (SNP). ASC works with organizations like SNP to help people “sea” the ways farmed fish, shellfish and shrimp deliver benefits to their lives.
A Multivitamin From The Sea
Miller thinks of seafood as a multivitamin since it’s rich in vitamins B and D, iron, zinc, selenium and magnesium. The health attributes of seafood are so strong that the American Heart Association recommends adding it to your plate at least two times a week. This article dives into the details, but here’s a quick look at what each micronutrient provides:
- Vitamin D controls the immune system’s response to microorganisms and helps keep it functioning properly.
- B vitamins help keep the immune system working by promoting red and white cell development to keep oxygen flowing. They also regulate inflammation.
- Iron promotes the reproduction of immune cells.
- Zinc helps wounds heal and fights off invading viruses and bacteria. It also helps our bodies create proteins and DNA, which are critical to cell development.
- Magnesium regulates immune cell development.
- Selenium helps lower oxidative stress levels in the body and reduces inflammation to enhance immunity. It’s an antioxidant that’s unique to seafood.
Seafood is also an amazing source of omega-3s EPA and DHA, which are healthful fats that work as anti-inflammatories in the body. These fatty acids can reverse the harmful effects of the immune response and are also good for your heart. Eating 250 milligrams of omega-3 fatty acids a day has been linked to a 30-50% reduction in heart attacks and helps prevent the formation of potentially dangerous blood clots.
Building Immunity and Community
If you’re wondering which types of seafood provide the best immune boosting benefits, the answer is…all of them!
“Eating a variety of seafood is important as each species provides its own unique nutrient profile from vitamin A to zinc,” says Miller. She goes on to explain that all seafood has selenium, but shrimp and clams are especially great sources. Salmon is packed with vitamin D and omega-3s.
“Those looking for anti-inflammatory benefits should focus on omega-3s. This chart shows the different levels within each species,” shared Miller. Salmon is one easy-to-find option that provides more than 1,000 milligrams per 4 oz. portion.
In addition to immunity, eating seafood from ASC-certified aquaculture farms also supports healthy communities.
“Responsibly raised salmon provides benefits beyond personal health,” said Max Depondt, general manager at ASC-certified Skuna Bay in BC, Canada “With Skuna Bay salmon and any ASC-certified seafood you buy, you support coastal communities with good jobs, cutting-edge technology and help keep our oceans a renewable resource for many generations to come.”
Tips For Adding More Seafood To Your Diet
To start adding seafood more regularly to your plate, Miller offers five tips to help make it quick and easy.
- Replace protein. Use seafood to replace another protein in a dish. It’s versatile and cooks quickly, making it perfect for busy weeknights.
- Start mild. New to seafood? Try a mild-flavored fish such as cod, pollock or haddock. These varieties are perfect for fish tacos and can be easily cooked in an air fryer.
- Spice it up. If you’re already a fan of seafood, it may be time to mix things up with fun flavor profiles. Try adding spices or marinades to your seafood dishes. Spice blends can be as simple as salt, pepper and a squeeze of lemon or as flavor complex as this coffee rub! Experiment with different spices and fish to find your favorite combination or try using sauces to create flavor
- Toss it on a sheet. Sheet pan meals are an easy way to save time in food preparation and clean-up and allow you to cook everything at once. Pair your choice of fish with some veggies like asparagus, broccoli or green beans for an easy, delicious and nutritious meal.
- Go beyond the fillet. Try salmon patties, shrimp stir-fry, fish tacos or clams with whole wheat pasta. Eat foods you already enjoy and jazz it up with fish or shellfish.
New to cooking fish like salmon? Depondt says just go for it! It’s all about building confidence.
“Cooking salmon is easy but can be intimidating until you figure it out. The biggest mistake people make is fussing too much and checking and poking the fish right after they put it in the pan,” explains Depondt. “It takes at least 10-15 minutes to cook, so don’t mess with it early or it will fall apart.”
Skuna Bay’s recipes for seared chili lime salmon and garlic broiled salmon are a great place to start. Both can be made in under 30 minutes with eight ingredients or less, but are packed full of flavor and nutrition.
If you’ve had a bad experience with seafood in the past, Depondt encourages you to ask for the sea green label in grocery stores and give ASC-certified products a try.
“I’ve done many grilling demos and converted people who previously thought they don’t like salmon because it’s fishy. High-quality, fresh salmon is not fishy, and our Skuna Bay hand selection and cleaning process yields the cleanest tasting salmon on the market,” says Depondt.
If you’re ready to strengthen your immune health, look for ASC’s sea green label in a store near you. Here are some recipes to get you started in the kitchen.
The last time you ate seafood at a restaurant did you consider that what showed up on your plate may not have been what you ordered? Chances are the potential for seafood fraud never crossed your mind, but it should have.
Seafood fraud is a common and profitable practice that not only compromises retailers, foodservice professionals and consumers, it also threatens our oceans and human health.
Products often pass through many hands from catch to final sale, so there are multiple opportunities for fraud to occur. Oftentimes, it’s unintentional – seafood on a poorly monitored supply chain can be mislabeled as it moves from sea to store. Other times, fraud is intentional with actions that include substituting species, lying about origin and attempts to pass off uncertified seafood as sustainable.
According to Traci Linder, Global Seafood Traceability Manager for World Wildlife Fund (WWF), one of the most common forms of seafood fraud is mislabeling a lower value species for a higher value one.
That’s exactly why ASC is on a mission to ensure the right farm-raised seafood reaches your plate every time. With ASC, you not only get a new way to seafood, you also get the strictest standards for greater transparency and accuracy.
Scary Seafood Fraud Stats
The Guardian recently conducted an analysis of 44 studies of 9,000 seafood samples from restaurants, fishmongers and supermarkets in over 30 countries, and found that 36% were mislabeled. Here are a few stats to consider:
- NGO Oceana revealed that 30% of DNA-tested shrimp across more than 100 restaurants and grocery stores were either labeled as the wrong species or as wild caught instead of farmed.
- A follow up report of a nationwide study on seafood fraud found that red snapper and tuna had the highest mislabeling rates at 87% and 59%, respectively. In fact, only seven of the 120 samples of red snapper purchased nationwide were actually correct. Salmon is mislabeled about 7% of the time.
- Sushi venues were found to have the most opportunity for mislabeling at 74%.
“This highlights the vast and prevalent issue of mislabeling and fraud in the seafood industry,” said Linder, who also noted these practices also are often associated with illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing activity, which is a big threat to the health of oceans. “Mixing and mislabeling of illegally caught species can easily happen without consequences.”
Identifying and Deterring Fraud
Purchasing ASC-certified products is one of the best ways to know for sure that the seafood you’re eating matches its label.
“One of the leading ways to combat seafood fraud is through robust supply chain traceability,” explained Linder. “Supply chains using best practices in seafood traceability – digital data capture and exchange, using interoperable traceability systems and capturing and sharing key data from harvest to final sale – are much less susceptible to fraudulent practices.”
Currently ASC is the only aquaculture certification program that can verify your seafood is what it claims to be, where it came from, how it was responsibly raised and how it got to you. This is done through ASC’s chain of custody protocols, rules for certification, label controls and, now, with the application of innovative technologies that can track seafood from farm to store.
“All companies handling ASC-labeled products must have chain of custody certification,” said Kathleen McDavitt, ASC’s U.S. Market Development Manager. “This involves an independent auditor going to the facility and verifying that they keep certified products separate and identifiable from non-certified products. Chain of custody holders also have to successfully complete a traceability exercise to verify the products’ origins.”
ASC is also pioneering the use of two innovative technologies in third party certification that will make fraud even more difficult. The first is based on trace element fingerprinting (TEF), which can pinpoint a fish’s farm of origin with greater than 95% accuracy. It goes beyond traditional document-based auditing techniques toward direct physical authentication of seafood products that can be tested at any point in the supply chain.
“TEF technology reflects the concept that ‘you are what you eat,’” explained Peter Redmond, ASC’s Senior Market Development Manager, North America. “The environment in which you eat, drink and live leaves a footprint in your body, and the same is true of farmed seafood. Trace elements from the local soils, groundwater, surrounding environment and food are taken in by plants and animals and, with our use of TEF, we can link them back to their place of origin.”
The second connects the supply chain through digital tagging, also known as key data elements (KDE). According to Wendy Banta, ASC’s Head of Supply Chain Assurance, this is a tool that can tag, track and record certified seafood from point of harvest to point of sale. In addition to adhering to this transparency, ASC’s chain of custody requires that supply chain members maintain high quality, secure handling and product integrity while seafood is in their custody.
“The more innovative ways we have to verify that an ASC certified product is true to its claims, and the wider variety of data points we have to cross-check, the harder it becomes to substitute or inflate certified production,” said Banta.
Raising Consumer Confidence
All of these safeguards help ASC and the independent auditors who monitor farms, processors and traders to identify and act against fraudulent activity. In these fishy situations, ASC doesn’t let violators off the hook.
According to McDavitt, ASC is the only certification program that requires suspension and public disclosure of any farms, processors, distributors and supply chain members that do not maintain the integrity of its protocols.
“During the third-party certification process, ASC collects key information that allows auditors to verify that producers and processors aren’t inflating their volumes of certified seafood sold compared to how much was harvested at the farm. If discrepancies are found, ASC will publicly suspend a company’s license to use the logo and an investigation may take place. Suspensions and terminations of companies from our program are publicly posted on our website,” said McDavitt.
A similar principle applies to companies that have signed an ASC logo licensing agreement. If a company doesn’t adhere to the logo licensing terms and conditions, the agreement can be suspended or terminated.
“We invest so much time and resources into this because people deserve to know exactly what they’re eating,” said McDavitt. “When you see the sea green label on the package, you know you’re getting the most transparent and responsibly raised seafood on the planet.”
Interested in learning more about the differences between wild-caught and farm-raised fish or why ASC certification rises above the rest? Check out this podcast episode filled with answers to your aquaculture questions. We also have delicious recipes perfect for adding more ASC-certified seafood to your plate right here.
Raising ASC-Certified Kanpachi on the Big Island
As part of our mission to help you add responsibly raised seafood to your plate, we are fortunate to work with some of the best seafood farms in the aquaculture industry. Across the globe and here in the U.S., our ASC-certified farmers care deeply about the impact they have on your family and our planet. That’s why they choose to adopt the strictest standards in the industry.
To celebrate their efforts and bring more transparency to the process of fish farming, we talked with Tyler Korte, vice president of marine operations at Blue Ocean Mariculture. Located in Kona, Hawaii, Blue Ocean Mariculture is the first finfish farm to gain ASC certification in the U.S. Korte shared insights on how the offshore farm works with Mother Nature to raise premier kanpachi and why it’s worth the extra effort to give you a new way to seafood.
Q: How did you get involved with Blue Ocean Mariculture and the aquaculture industry?
A: I taught marine ecology for 10 years, which included several courses on sustainable fishing practices and how aquaculture is shaping the future of seafood. One day, I flew to Kona for a visit and knew immediately it was time to change careers. Working at Blue Ocean Mariculture offers an amazing opportunity to be a mariner, farmer and scientist all at once. Each day is full of new challenges that require us to be innovative, resilient and passionate about finding a better way.
Q: What types of seafood do you raise?
A: We raise Hawaii Kanpachi™, a species native to Hawaii that’s also found around the globe in tropical and subtropical waters. It takes about 14-15 months to grow them from hatch to harvest.
Kanpachi is known by chefs for its fresh and subtle flavors. It’s also amazingly versatile. Most of the time I eat it raw as sashimi or in sushi, but my favorite way to enjoy it is kanpachi kama, which a grilled kanpachi collar served with ponzu sauce. Either way, it has incredible flavor.
Q: Why did Blue Ocean Mariculture decide to become ASC certified?
A: We’re dedicated to producing responsibly grown seafood, promoting healthy oceans and contributing to vibrant communities. The ASC certification standards are a wonderful tool to ensure that our decisions and best practices have a positive impact on our customers and waters. Attaining ASC certification not only reminds our team that we are on the right course, it’s also a symbol to the seafood community that Blue Ocean Mariculture is committed to excellence.
Q: What’s a typical day like at the offshore farm?
A: We start with a team gathering at the break of dawn to prepare for the day ahead. The vessels and equipment go through their morning inspections and startup routines while we check our dive gear. By 7:30 a.m., the boats leave the harbor to make the seven-mile trip up the coast to the farm site.
At the farm, things are quiet on the surface. All the net pens have been submerged for the night to give the fish space, good water quality and protection from any storms that passed through. Underwater it’s a different story because the fish are ready to eat.
We pull up the first cage, and the observation team hits the water as the operator starts the feed. Divers spend 30-40 minutes during the feeding event watching the fish behavior and communicating the actions of the fish to the surface. These observations are essential to ensure that all the fish are well fed without losing any of their nutrition to the surrounding waters.
After each feeding, the team utilizes the sea station to lift half of the net pen up and out of the water. This allows us to inspect and dry the top half of the pen, which is essential for the health and care of the fish. Our production team repeats this process for all eight sea stations across the farm to ensure each fish cohort is well fed and that their habitats are clean and secure.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the farm, the operations team performs the harvest. The harvest vessel is secured next to the sea station containing our most mature fish cohort. Our dive team connects a pipe between the ship and the harvest system inside the pen. By 10 a.m., everything is secured.
The team raises the cage out of the sea to capture and bring the fish aboard. The sea lift harvest system allows our team to selectively pull kanpachi to order, ensuring that every customer is receiving freshly harvested fish. This efficient and humane system is designed to minimize disturbance to the fish not being harvested. It’s a unique technology that delivers 2,000 delicious Hawaiian Kanpachi™ in less than an hour using only compressed air.
At mid-day, the operations crew heads to port with 12,000 lbs. of kanpachi ready for market. Harvesting happens twice each week.
Working in this environment is no easy task, and each day presents new challenges, but all the work is worth it to raise our kanpachi. The strong pristine waters of Hawaii that flow through our site are what creates the unique meroir of Hawaiian Kanpachi™ that puts it in a class of its own.
Q: How can people find your farm-raised kanpachi?
A: About half the fish we produce stays in Hawaii. You can find it in a number of restaurants on all the islands as well as in some of the local grocery stores. The other half of our harvest can be found at restaurants and distributors across the 48 states on the mainland.
To learn more about Blue Ocean Mariculture’s Hawaii Kanpachi™, find recipes or where to buy it, visit their website. Remember to look for ASC’s sea green label whenever you buy seafood to know you’re getting the most responsibly raised fish in the world.
Keep growing your knowledge about how ASC certification stands apart from other programs by reading this article on our newest technology.
All images courtesy of Blue Ocean Mariculture.
What’s it like to be a woman working in aquaculture? International Women’s Day offers a perfect chance to ask two of ASC’s own team members about their experiences in the field.
Renée Hamel is ASC’s Technical & Operations Support Manager. For her, sustainable seafood is a lifelong passion: “I grew up in rural Newfoundland in the aftermath of the 1992 cod fishery moratorium. I saw the devastating impacts that the loss of wild fish stocks can have on a community, which gave me a love and respect for the ocean from a very young age.
“I eventually pursued a Bachelor of Science in Biology (Marine) where I first became acquainted with aquaculture – and the rest is history!”
Kathrin Steinberg is head of the Research Team in ASC’s Standards & Science department. She, too, has long been enchanted with all things marine. “As a kid I wanted to study ‘dolphin biology’ and was fascinated by marine life, which I still am. So when I found a course on marine technologies I knew what I wanted to study. I had not heard about aquaculture before and it was only a small part of the curriculum, but I found it intriguing. There are still so many things that we do not know about aquaculture and things we can still improve in the ‘real world’ – I am sure that I will never get bored of it.”
Seafood Watch rates all ASC-certified salmon as a ‘buy option’
If you have seen that Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch has rated farmed salmon from British Columbia as ‘red’ in its latest ratings, you would be forgiven for thinking that meant all salmon from this area should be off the menu – but you’d also be wrong.
In fact, Seafood Watch rates all ASC-certified salmon as a buy option for environmentally conscientious shoppers – and that covers ASC salmon from every region, including British Columbia.
So I can eat farmed salmon from British Columbia even thought it’s rated red?
If it’s ASC-certified, you can be assured that it’s been responsibly farmed. And that’s a pretty good rule of thumb no matter where the salmon was produced.
We will admit that this can be a little confusing, and that’s because seafood is a complex industry and simple answers don’t always give us all the information we need. Even so, looking for the ASC logo is a pretty straightforward way to minimize your environmental and social impacts.
What is Seafood Watch?
Seafood Watch is a ratings program run by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. It develops standards and makes recommendations on the environmental sustainability of different seafood species produced in different regions. Seafood Watch recently updated its ratings, and downgraded its overall recommendation for farmed salmon from British Columbia to a red rating. What’s important to note is that this does not apply to ASC-certified salmon from British Columbia, which is rated as a ‘buy option.’
Spot the difference
To understand why you can still purchase ASC-certified salmon from British Columbia even if that region is rated red by Seafood Watch, it’s necessary to understand the difference between ‘ratings’ and ‘certifications’ – two different, but complementary tools.
Ratings focus on assessing as many seafood sources as possible in different markets to provide information on the full spectrum of performance. This information can be used to identify opportunities for producers to pursue improvement projects and certifications, as well as help businesses evaluate sourcing options. It can also flag where more businesses or consumers might want to seek additional information and assurance on certain seafood products from certain regions.
Certifications directly engage with fisheries or farms and require them to address social and environmental challenges to improve and meet the certification standard. Certifications also engage with the supply chain to provide additional assurance. ASC certification is a specific assurance based on rigorous audits at individual farms. Chain of Custody certification then ensures that the entire supply chain is certified, meaning that only seafood from certified farms can end up in certified products bearing the ASC label.
Which is better?
Both can be extremely helpful to consumers and businesses! For a start, the more information and publicity out there about responsible farming, the better. At ASC we are passionate about our approach, which is individually certifying farms and providing consumers with trusted information so they can reward responsible producers. But ratings programs provide a complementary service. Because ASC is based on auditing individual farms, we can’t comment on those farms that haven’t been audited. A ratings system can give a more general picture of what farming is like for a particular species in a particular region. It can be a great starting point for the conscientious business or consumer.
So Seafood Watch still recommends ASC salmon?
Yes, all ASC-certified salmon, from anywhere in the world, is rated as a buy option for environmentally conscious consumers. This overrides any rating that a region may have been given. This is because Seafood Watch have benchmarked ASC’s Salmon Standard and recognized it as consistent with their own criteria for environmental sustainability.
It can be confusing looking for food that has been produced responsibly. At ASC we make it as simple as possible by only allowing our label to be used on products from farms that have demonstrated their excellent social and environmental performance. So, if in doubt, look for the ASC logo!
Introducing Trace Element Fingerprinting
ASC has unveiled a new technology that allows us to verify ASC-certified seafood back to its farm of origin with better than 95% accuracy. It’s a new way to seafood.
Our pioneering technology – based on Trace Element Fingerprinting (TEF) – will, in part, help to further reduce seafood fraud and mislabeling, occurrences all too common in both wild-caught and farmed seafood.
“In order to make claims about being the ‘best’ or ‘sustainable,’ you must be able to verify where and how the seafood was raised,” said Peter Redmond, ASC’s senior market development manager, North America. “We are encouraged by the opportunity this technology brings to further strengthen our certification program.”
ASC is the world’s leading provider of farmed seafood certification. Since 2010, we have been creating and enforcing the world’s strictest combination of standards for
- Protecting the environment, workers and communities.
- Ensuring supply chain integrity from the farm to the store.
- Providing the most comprehensive transparency through public disclosure.
ASC is the only aquaculture certification program that can verify your seafood is what it claims to be, where it came from, how it was responsibly raised and how it got to you.
Now, with TEF, ASC has the ability to trace farmed seafood with even more accuracy. Tests have already been conducted at several ASC-certified shrimp farms in Southeast Asia and is now in progress in other regions. In these, we and our partners were able to correctly identify the farms of origin in all samples and achieved better than 95% accuracy compared to lower accuracy rates for conventional statistical methodologies.
“ASC’s use of TEF technology reflects the concept that ‘you are what you eat,’” Redmond added. “The environment in which you eat, drink and live leaves a footprint in your body, and the same is true of farmed seafood. Trace elements from the local soils, groundwater, surrounding environment and food are taken in by plants and animals and, with our use of TEF technology, we can link them back to their place of origin.”
We will continue to test and refine the technology, which will be included in ASC’s new Chain of Custody (CoC) requirements.
Strengthening the ASC Label
Consumers can find our sea green ASC-certified responsible seafood label at grocers and seafood counters nationwide. Internationally, the ASC label is on more than 19,400 products.
“While our label is a symbol to consumers that their product comes from a certified responsible farm, we also need to constantly adapt to new technologies,” said Wendy Banta, ASC’s senior program assurance manager. “Now, with TEF technology, we are further pushing mislabeling and fraud out of this industry and driving what we call, ‘the new way to seafood.’”