Seattle chef and cooking instructor Becky Selengut, who publicly challenged Whole Foods Market's commitment to sustainable seafood at a panel earlier this year, yesterday said she's "changed her tune."
Selengut and chef Barton Seaver served as panelists for Slow Food Seattle's "My Fish Has Issues; It's Complicated: Sustainable Seafood in a Multimedia World." The pair urged audience members to think beyond the green list, the short list of ocean critters OK'd for consumption, and make more nuanced meal choices that could prod additional fisheries toward sustainability.
"We're not going to save the oceans by eating sustainable seafood," Seaver said. "We're going to save the oceans by eating vegetables."
While Selengut echoed Seaver's call for scaling back seafood portion sizes--her book, Good Fish, treats 4 ounces as an average serving--neither chef endorsed a prohibitionary approach. Both chefs are huge fans of domestic shellfish farming, an industry which contributes to habitat restoration and the economic health of coastal communities.
But not every item in the seafood case so clearly aligns with sustainable goals. Whole Food Market seafood quality standards coordinator Carrie Brownstein in May told an audience gathered for a store-sponsored forum the grocery chain planned to keep less-defensible fish on offer through 2012. Selengut was initially outraged by the decision.
"I was very publicly down on this," she said last night. "I could not understand it. But I've come around to understand they're really trying to influence the fisheries they work with."
Focusing only on fisheries that are already doing everything right isn't a wise long-term strategy, Selengut said.
"We're all in this together," she said. "Whole Foods, love it or hate it, is a huge part of the market, so they're able to inspire change. I'm firmly on board with that."