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Aloha Austin Dinner

ASC’s South by Southwest Activations Champion Responsibly Farmed Seafood  

March 27, 2024

From culinary delights to expert insights, the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) helped elevate responsibly farmed seafood and recognition of its sea green label through a series of activations this month during the 2024 South by Southwest Conference and Festival (SXSW). 

ASC’s initiatives included an immersive “Aloha Austin” tasting experience in collaboration with Blue Ocean Mariculture, followed by an expert panel discussion with industry leaders from New Seasons Market, Sushi Maki and Food Tank at the prestigious “All Things Food Summit at SXSW 2024” asking, “Can Seafood Be Sustainable?”   

Collectively, these events were ASC’s largest North American activation to date in its multiyear campaign to build awareness, interest and understanding of the benefits behind ASC’s sea green certification label to shoppers nationwide.

SXSW Aloha Austin Banner

March 13: “Aloha Austin: A Certified Seafood Feast”

ASC and Blue Ocean Mariculture, an ASC certified seafood producer from Kona, Hawaii, brought together nearly 150 media, social influencers, seafood industry leaders, retailers and fellow SXSW attendees for a one-of-a-kind “Aloha Austin: A Certified Seafood Feast” tasting event. View images here.  


Island and Austin flavors converged at the immersive Hawaiian experience featuring stunning visuals, music and dishes designed around Blue Ocean Mariculture’s ASC certified Hawaiian Kanpachi, ranging from fresh ceviche and succulent sashimi to Texas-style smoked fish with prickly pear de gallo.

“Tasting is believing,” Athena Davis, Marketing Manager, ASC North America, addressed guests during the event. “While some of you may have come here with a picture of farmed seafood that’s not so pretty, we hope you leave with a changed perspective after learning and dining with us.”


Guest eating burger

As attendees enjoyed the
evening’s menu by chefs Vitaly Paley, Saine Wong and Chuck Charnicart, ASC CEO Chris Ninnes and Blue Ocean Mariculture CEO Dick Jones spoke to the crowd on the importance of certified, responsible seafood farming to ensure a safe, healthy future for our oceans, our communities and ourselves.

ASC CEO addressing crowdASC CEO Chris Ninnes

March 14: “All Things Food Summit at SXSW 2024”

The next morning, ASC took center stage at Food Tank’s “All Things Food Summit at SXSW 2024,” a day-long series of panel discussions, fireside chats, delicious food, film viewings and live performances for roughly 5,000 attendees. 

Image courtesy of Ryan Rose Photography and Food Tank 

The “Can Seafood Be Sustainable?” panel featured ASC CEO Chris Ninnes joined by Daisy Berg, Seafood Category Manager of Portland, Ore.-based grocer New Seasons Market, and Abe Ng, CEO of Miami-based Sushi Maki, the nation’s first ASC certified sushi chain. 

Hosted by Food Tank’s Danielle Neirenberg, the lively 25-minute panel, viewable here, focused on each participant’s journey toward passionately advocating for farmed seafood, done responsibly. As a key part of this discussion, panelists dove deep into the essential role certification plays in elevating the seafood industry and therefore the global food supply.

Image courtesy of Ryan Rose Photography and Food Tank 

“Farmed seafood is healthy, it’s nutritious and it’s absolutely an essential component of the global food system,” said Ninnes. “We’ve seen some so-called documentaries that really expose some awful practices, but those practices don’t represent the norm. Yes, we want to eliminate those (awful) practices. It’s essential. Done right, farmed seafood is not only a necessity, but it should also be a staple of how we think about producing a much more climate-friendly protein.” 

“A year from now, I don’t want to have a conversation about wild versus farmed anymore,” added Berg. “The truth of it is, they can coexist. They can both be responsible and sustainable, and it is the way forward. We need to embrace our fishers, and we need to embrace our farmers.” 

Chris Ninnes, Daisy Berg and Abe Ng onstage at “Can Seafood Be Sustainable?” Food Tank panel

Ng added that responsibly farmed seafood is also essential for the chefs and staff who serve it. “We work with organizations like ASC to find a product that is consistent and at a
high quality standard,” he said. “Certification for us is one way to differentiate ourselves to our 300 front-line team members. The magic happens at the table and counter when somebody says our sushi tastes great. Our team members can then say, ‘Not only does it taste great, but it’s also sustainable.’”

Abe Ng, Chris Ninnes and Daisy Berg

ASC’s North American marketing campaign continues in May with a series of summer seafood retail and restaurant promotions with Atlanta’s Inland Seafood, followed by a tasting experience at the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival in September. Meanwhile, ASC is expanding its campaign into Toronto, Canada, throughout summer and fall during October, National Seafood Month in collaboration with Export Packers and other partners. 

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