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Sustainable Seafood Program

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  Sustainable Seafood Program

A program to increase awareness and availability of sustainable seafood in local restaurants and markets

Our mission

The mission of the Sustainable Seafood Program is to educate our community about the impact of their seafood choices on the health of the planet.  By increasing community support for sustainable and local seafood, we hope to do our part to ensure that all the tasty dishes we enjoy today are available for generations to come.

Our vision is to see Santa Barbara become known as a town that actively supports the longevity of their local fisheries and that leads the county in support for a sustainable seafood movement. 


Our goals
We want to shift our community’s seafood consumption to sustainable sources, consumer by consumer and restaurant by restaurant.

By helping restaurants and markets replace unsustainable seafood items with sustainable ones, we hope to shift thousands of dollars spent supporting unsustainable fisheries to supporting the new sustainable seafood movement.

We also work to spread awareness by educating and inspiring our community to raise their standards for their seafood choices.

Our funding
We are housed and supported by the Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History, a starter grant from Patagonia and support to our undergraduate intern from the Hearst Foundation.

What is sustainable seafood?
In a nutshell, sustainable seafood can be wild-caught or farmed raised, but must be harvested with care to maintain stable catch levels in the long-term without major harm to the environment and other sea life.

  • Various aspects of the fishery are considered when evaluating its sustainability:
    • Are harvest levels monitored? Many fisheries are still not properly monitored to be able to calculate what the true harvest levels are.
    • Are harvest levels low enough that fish population will survive over the short and long term?
    • Is any harm done to the fish’s habitat, such as alteration of seafloor habitat by trawling?
    • Are large proportions of non-target species (by-catch) killed in the process?
    • What is the carbon footprint of the fishery? Many fish are shipped long distances, requiring a lot of energy and packaging to transport the catch
  • There are also several criteria specific to fish farms
    • Are the farmed fish fed wild fish that are caught unsustainably?
    • Does the farm create pollution and other impacts on the area around the farm?
    • Does the farm minimize risks of spreading disease or genetic contamination to wild populations?

Much of the seafood caught locally in the Santa Barbara area is harvested sustainably and requires minimal energy to make the short trip to get fresh seafood to the consumer.

We promote locally-caught sustainable seafood as the best choice to support a healthy ocean.

The overfishing crisis

A third of the world’s fisheries have already collapsed due to overharvesting. The removal of so much of world’s marine life has already had a big impact on the health of oceans and their potential to continue feeding the world’s growing human population in the future. Most consumers are unaware that they may be supporting the decline of our seas and rarely understand the vast amount of by-catch, waste, and pollution generated to get one fresh-looking fish on their plate. Considering over 65% of seafood (by value) is purchased by American consumers from restaurants and or food service establishments, the purchasing power of our citizens is extraordinary.

Summary of how our program works
Participating restaurants and markets pledge to take steps to avoid offering unsustainable seafood. They display a certificate showing their support for sustainable seafood and may provide our educational materials to their patrons. In return, we will help promote these restaurants by spreading the word that they provide consumers with an alternative to unsustainable seafood, and help them make the switch to sustainable seafood.

Details of how our program works
We are in the process of contacting restaurants and markets in Santa Barbara that serve seafood to tell them about our program and invite them to join. Membership is free, but restaurants and markets must demonstrate their commitment to the pledge by taking steps to increase the sustainable seafood choices on their menu. We primarily use the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch research to guide the evaluation of menus, but we work with chefs to tailor our suggestions for menu changes to each restaurant.

  • In order to support our members, we will provide them with:

    • a list of sustainable and unsustainable seafood choices, updated periodically, and on-call availability to answer any questions that arise about the list
    • training materials for wait staff, chefs and market employees, to educate them on the difference between sustainable and unsustainable seafood and the scope of our program
    • our logo sticker to display their membership in our program to patrons
    • Seafood Watch Pocket Guides to provide to customers
    • promotion in an exhibit on Sustainable Seafood at the Sea Center and on our web site
    • promotion through one-time events such as benefit banquets that features the food of participating restaurants and a booth dedicated to the Sustainable Seafood Program at the Santa Barbara Harbor & Seafood Festival each October.

News and promotional events
Check back later for downloadable discount coupons redeemable at our partner restaurants!


Contact Information
Ron Skinner
Community Education Manager
Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History
805-682-4711 ext. 170


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