UBC Food Services commits to purchasing only sustainable seafood

UBC Food Services recently announced it will now only purchase and offer sustainable seafood in a move aligned with campus sustainability initiatives. The switch was completed on July 1 and will be implemented at all UBC food outlets on the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses.

All purchases follow the recommendations of Ocean Wise, a conservation organization. Its seafood program, with over 700 partners across Canada, promotes sustainable seafood in the market and helps consumers make ocean-friendly choices. UBC has been a partner since 2008.

UBC Executive Chef and Culinary Director David Speight explained that despite the efforts for sustainability, UBC Food Services has previously purchased a significant amount of non-recommended seafood.

“We have committed to changing that,” he said in a media release.

Making good choices

“Now we’re at the stage where all kinds of ecosystems are being affected by our activities in ways that fundamentally undermine the ability of those ecosystems to provide what we depend on,” said Dr. Kai Chan, professor at UBC’s Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability.

Chan explained that human activities like overharvesting are putting ocean ecosystems “significantly under threat” and changes that promote sustainability are important for the situation to improve.

He added that the “strong stance” of the university is “inspiring” and shows that exclusively purchasing sustainable seafood is a viable choice.

Andrew Parr, managing director of UBC student housing and hospitality services, wrote that universities have “a responsibility to creat[e] change” in a media release.

“We challenge other universities in Canada to move away from companies involved in over-fishing, bycatch or unsustainable fishing practices and towards those businesses working to conserve our water through sustainable fishing,” Parr said.

UBC is also making the move to promote diversity in seafood consumption on campus by incorporating species that are less common in their menus. According to Chan, many of these species can be “more nutritious” than common ones such as salmon and shrimp.

“When you prioritize shrimp and salmon so much, then you are undermining so many other species in the ecosystem, which are actually really important,” he said. “Eating a more diverse diet of seafood is both good for the ocean and good for people.”

UBC also plans to work with local, small-scale and family owned sustainable fisheries who might be unable to get Ocean Wise certification.

Chan believes that UBC is doing well on sustainability and he would like to see more initiatives “everywhere.”

“The part that matters the most is the broader world of procurement. What UBC buys and then what people buy on campus, that has major impacts elsewhere. That’s the big new horizon for sustainability,” he said.

“We need to take responsibility for the impacts of our purchases.”