Dining Centre switches to more sustainable fish

By Rhiannon Kirkland

Last May, Compass Group Canada, the parent company of Chartwells, removed Atlantic cod from its menus and replaced it with sustainably-harvested Atlantic pollock. As of February, the University of Calgary’s Dining Centre stopped serving open-net pen-farmed salmon and replaced it with more sustainable wild-farmed salmon.

This change comes as part of Compass Group’s sustainable seafood commitment with the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program. Ocean Wise works with suppliers and restaurants to help them find out where the seafood they serve comes from and where they can get sustainable seafood, said Ocean Wise co-ordinator Mike McDermid.

“We do the homework for the chefs, we sift through all the scientific literature, we ensure and help them source alternative products,” said McDermid. “We’re working through these options and identifying the bad options and taking them off the menu at about one a year, which is an amazing rate for a company that size.”

Open-net, pen-farmed salmon was removed because of the serious environmental problems related to these farms, said Chartwells market specialist Erica Gale. Some of the most common issues include the spread of diseases and parasites like sea lice to wild stock, farmed fish escaping, chemicals and antibiotics getting released and pollution from fish excrement, said Gale.

“I don’t think [students] know what’s been happening behind closed doors and the changes and commitments that their cafeteria has made,” said McDermid.

Compass Group started to identify sustainable seafood options on their menus with icons. Posters are displayed to inform students of the changes and why they’re happening next to samples of wild salmon handed out, said Gale.

Jeffrey Juet, a first-year political science student, said that he would be willing to pay more for a sustainable food, but that most people would go with the cheaper option even if it was bad for the environment.

“In a lot of cases, a more sustainable product is going to be more expensive,” said McDermid. “It doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s always more expensive. When they removed the unsustainable Atlantic cod, they switched to Marine Sturgeon Council certified Alaskan pollock from a sustainable fishery and the cost was almost half as much, so it actually saved them money.”


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