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Where do I purchase seafood in Southern California?

With recent media coverage over mis-labeling, the question we are asked most frequently here at Seafood for the Future is “Where can I purchase seafood that I can trust to be well-managed, correctly labeled, AND fresh?”

Today, yet another article raising concerns over seafood mis-labeling was published by Time Magazine entitled, “Fish Labeled as Eco-Friendly Chilean Sea Bass May Not Be”. Consumers have been told that if they cannot live without their beloved Patagonian Toothfish (aka Chilean Sea Bass), that they were in luck! A fishery off the coast of South Georgia Island was evaluated and deemed sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council or (MSC). However, a study by Peter Marko, a professor of biological sciences at Clemson University, took samples of the fish in 2008 and compared it with 2001 fish samples. His findings were as follows:

“…according to DNA analysis by Clemson University researchers, 15% of Chilean sea bass labeled as sustainable and sold at U.S. grocers did not come from the certified fishery. What’s more, 8% of sustainable Chilean sea bass were of a different species entirely.”

There could be several reasons for these findings, but this study indicates that over 20% of the MSC certified Chilean Sea Bass sampled was not MSC Certified Chilean Sea Bass. This article is merely the cherry on top of a summer sundae filled with giant scoops of alarming seafood concerns. What’s most troubling for us here at Seafood for the Future is that people are already confused about seafood sustainability, mercury content, whether fish-farming is good or bad, and now they don’t even know if they’ve really been eating $30 tilapia all this time.  When findings suggest that even MSC Certified fish isn’t safe from the seafood market’s apparent love affair with mis-labeling, it can dissuade even those who really enjoy seafood from getting their recommended serving. We want to be clear, we do not believe this information discredits MSC, MSC has put checks and regulations in place to prevent this from happening. However, it’s obvious from reports surfacing this summer that mis-labeling is rampant in the market itself. It is just an excellent reminder to diversify the types of seafood you eat and learn about fishery management and responsible farming practices. When you learn what makes a fishery or a farm well-managed, you can begin to do your own due diligence and decide what qualifies as sustainable in your book.

It’s official, seafood is the new milk. And it does a body even better - if you’ve been keeping up with us on Facebook or on Twitter you know that among the health benefits of consuming Omega-3s are reduced inflammation, reduced anxiety, higher brain function, and superior cardiovascular health.

So, what’s a sustainable seafood lover and Omega-3 enthusiast to do?

1)  Eat Seafood! 

No we’re not crazy, seafood is just too important for your health not to! In fact, we know that if you’re the average American, you probably aren’t eating enough seafood.  According to the American Heart Association, you should consume seafood at least twice a week. Another great website for tracking your seafood consumption and seeing the benefits of your seafood choices is How Much Fish.

2)  Do your homework.

Check out our Recommendations. Diversify the types of seafood you eat. If you like one type of seafood, chances are there is another one you’ll love. Learn about responsibly farmed seafood and ask for them by name. Research your favorite types of fish. What do they look like whole? What does a fillet look like? Where does it typically come from? Ask your fishmonger these questions and inspect the fish yourself. At the very least, your vendor should be able to tell you whether the fish was wild or farmed and where it is from. If something seems fishy, skip your first choice and test them on another fish. If something still seems fishy, it’s probably time for a new, more informative vendor. 

3) Buy from reputable sellers.

In Southern California, we have 3 recommendations that are completely worth the trip! 

Our first pick is Santa Monica Seafood. They have 2 retail locations – Santa Monica and Costa Mesa. They’ve addressed mis-labeling head-on on their blog. What’s more is that you’ll be in the good company of the discerning chefs and purchasers behind these very reputable establishments. As Santa Monica Seafood’s blog on seafood mis-labeling mentions, chefs often know more about the characteristics of seafood than consumers like you and me. The same fish you can dine on at the Ritz Carlton or Le Monde by Joel Robuchon can be on your dining room table tonight. Plus, we at SFF have worked with the VP of Purchasing at Santa Monica Seafood. He is very active in the sustainable seafood community, an ardent advocate for community supported fisheries, practically a walking encyclopedia of fish, and is probably going to say we were too kind in writing this. You’d be hard pressed to find a more trustworthy seafood supplier with two convenient locations in Southern California and so many high quality options to choose from. If it’s a weeknight and you’re totally pooped from work, they’ll even cook it for you!

If you’re in LA, McCall’s Meat & Fish is another top-notch place to pick up the latest and greatest in the highest quality, locally sourced and responsibly farmed seafood. Nathan McCall hand selects all of their fish and it is so unbelievably fresh that every week there is a brand new offering of fish in their seafood case. You can keep up with their weekly offerings on their Facebook page before making the trip to Los Feliz. Speaking from experience, you can ask Chef Nathan 100 questions about the seafood and he’ll have the answer for every one. If you are an omnivore, good luck trying to escape without surf AND turf! The meats are sourced as meticulously as the fish and Nathan probably has to wipe drool from the front of the case several times a day.

We love a good farmers’ market. The sights, sounds, smells, and the happy feelings evoked from supporting our local farmers are just too much for us to resist. We especially love Orange Home Grown and the Santa Monica Farmers’ Market. You might run into some of our partner restaurant chefs like Chef Greg Daniels of Haven Gastropub picking up produce on Saturday morning at Orange Home Grown. You’ll also find one our Branded Products partners Carlsbad Aquafarm selling their mussels and oysters directly to the public at both of these amazing markets. If you haven’t had an opportunity to try their shellfish, the good folks at Carlsbad Aquafarm will happily give you a sample at the market!

4) Stay tuned to our Seafood for the Future updates. We want to help you fight mis-labeling, so we’ll start a chef/purchasing series giving you advise on how to be a discerning fish buyer! Let us know which fish you need help with & we’ll be sure to get it covered together with our network of responsible chefs and distributors.

Seafood for the Future

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2 Responses to “Where do I purchase seafood in Southern California?”

  1. Amy Jackson says:

    We are very concerned about the results in Current Biology and have already launched an investigation. We have approached the authors to share their data with us and once we have conducted a full review of the products reported as mislabelled, we will publish the outcome of our investigation and provide information relating to actions the MSC has taken.

    Because the MSC Chain of Custody programme requires full traceability at every point of the supply chain, our investigation will be able to identify if any breach has occurred and pinpoint exactly where in the supply chain it happened. If proven, it could result in the suspension or withdrawal of their Chain of Custody certificate.

    The MSC has a long running programme of DNA testing as part of its commitment to ensuring robust and credible chain of custody certification. Results analysed by the TRACE Wildlife Forensics Network in 2009 showed that all samples of MSC certified South Georgian (Patagonian) toothfish came from the MSC certified fishery.

    Regards,

    Amy Jackson, Supply Chain Director

  2. Mel says:

    Amy,

    Thank you kindly for reading our blog and letting our readers know about the checks in the MSC system. As we mentioned, we do not believe this information discredits MSC because we know about the Chain of Custody program. This news and the news from Oceana earlier this summer just show how deep-rooted mis-labeling is in our seafood supply chain. If these results can occur with so many regulations in place, it’s no small wonder that we’re seeing reports like the one Oceana released.

    The best thing consumers can do to combat mis-labeling is to learn as much as possible about their favorite fish species to ensure they are actually getting the fish they believe they are purchasing. We plan to begin a chef series to help consumers do just that!

    All my best,

    Mel

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