Sustainable Seafood at the University of Minnesota
Author(s): Andrea Leigh Bolks, Will Clausen, Andrew Orthober, Jodi Larson
Course Name: Sustainable Communities, SUST 4004
Institution: University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
Sustainability Studies and Science
Publication Date: March, 2009
Paper Type: Non-thesis Undergraduate Student Research
The ultimate goal of this project is to transform the process by which seafood is purchased and consumed at the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities. Currently, no criteria concerning sustainability are in place for seafood bought and served by University Dining Services (UDS) in the dining halls.
Sustainability relates to seafood in a very important way. For a long time, the ocean was thought to be so vast that it could absorb whatever was put into it and replenish whatever was taken from it. Today, we can see how wrong this assumption was. Many of the world’s fisheries are severely overfished and historically important fisheries have already collapsed. The scale of this problem becomes apparent when one examines the growth of the world population along side the increasing per capita demand for seafood (Johnson et al, 2004). Since the 1950’s the global demand for fish products has doubled and continues to rise (Weeks, 2007). According to Hilborn, R. et al. from State of the World’s Fisheries, “The world’s fisheries continue to be heavily subsidized which encourages over fishing and provides society with a small fraction of the potential economic benefits. In most of the world’s fisheries there is a “race for fish” in which boats compete to catch the fish before a quota is achieved or the fish are caught by someone else. The race for fish leads to economic inefficiency, poor quality product and pressure to extract every fish for short-term gain” (2003). As consumers of seafood, we can change this trend by changing the way we purchase seafood.
This project sets the stage for actions to be taken by individuals and groups within UDS. We recommend and describe four action steps necessary to establish sustainable seafood as a permanent part of the menu using both the concepts of resilience and systems thinking. The first action, the compilation of valuable information and resources into a packet, was completed by our group includes, for example, contacts and information on local sustainable fish farms, resources for creative and delicious seafood recipes, and an overview of some popular sustainable seafood certification programs. The second action calls for members of UDS, specifically the Sustainability Coordinator and a newly hired chef focused on sustainability, to review and discuss the information from the packet. The third action step entails the first implementation of sustainable seafood within the dining halls through marketing and promoting sustainable and local seafood producers at special events throughout the year, the responsiveness of consumers. Finally, step four calls for the permanent integration of sustainable seafood products into the menu and the establishment of minimum acceptance criteria for seafood sustainability through a working group. The recommendations and performance measures described in this report will help set UDS on track to a more sustainable menu, one that will promote a healthier university and a healthier natural environment.
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