Tennessee Aquarium kicks off sustainable seafood initiative

Tennessee Aquarium kicks off sustainable seafood initiative

August 16th, 2011 by Holly Leber in News

Alton Brown talks to media and a group of students Monday about sustainable seafood while scuba diving in the ocean tank at the Tennessee Aquarium.

Photo by Angela Lewis /Times Free Press.

When it comes to seafood, diversity is the key to sustainability.

That's the message of Serve and Protect, a sustainable seafood initiative launched Monday morning by the Tennessee Aquarium.

Alton Brown, star of the Food Network series "Good Eats" and "Iron Chef America," defined sustainability as "the capability to endure." Brown, who is working with the aquarium on Serve and Protect, was on hand Monday to kick off the program -- while floating inside the ocean tank.

"The timing is great because of all the green efforts going on in Chattanooga," said Thom Benson, communications manager for the aquarium.

Thom Benson

Thom Benson

As an aquarium diver wielded a device called a bump stick to keep sharks at bay, Brown and Tennessee Aquarium Conservation Institute Director Anna George spoke to members of the media about the initiative.

Watching Brown and George were a group of fourth-grade students from Richard Hardy Memorial School in South Pittsburg, Tenn., which participates in BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee's Walking Works for Schools program to combat childhood obesity.

"We thought [attending the launch] would open up a whole new world of what's healthy and what's not," said Kelby Ferrell, the school's coordinator for health programs.

Serve and Protect focuses not only on the health of people, but on the health of the oceans. Nearly one-third of fisheries have collapsed, largely because of overfishing and poor fishing practices, George said.

"The choices we're making now ensure we're going to be eating jellyfish and plankton in the future," she said.

The key to sustainability is twofold. First, people need to diversify the types of seafood being consumed. Americans are guilty of "species targeting," that is, only eating a few, select types of seafood, particularly salmon, tuna and swordfish, Brown said.

This year, the aquarium, in conjunction with local restaurants, is focusing on rainbow trout, farm-raised catfish, oysters, yellowtail snapper and American lobster. Following the presentation at the aquarium, Brown spoke with area restaurant workers about preparing and selling a wider range of seafood.

The second way to sustain the oceans is to practice safe fishing. Serve and Protect emphasizes eating seafood of American origin because U.S. fishing regulations are stronger than those in other countries.

"We're not perfect by any means, but when it comes to seafood fishery management, we're pretty good," said Brown.

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