Yesterday was a special milestone for Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program, as it celebrated and recognized the hard work of culinary leaders in Alberta who are making waves through their inspiring commitment to sustainable seafood. These partners have joined in the battle to curb the overexploitation of our oceans and lakes.

Although Alberta is landlocked, Ocean Wise chefs and partners in the province are recognizing that overfishing impacts all of us, no matter where we live. “Canadians from coast to coast enjoy seafood and rely on it as a vital culinary option and protein source – we need to adjust the way we continue to rely on the oceans as a food source as we have already depleted over 90 per cent of large, predatory fish,” says Teddie Geach, Ocean Wise’s account representative for Western Canada. “We must take immediate action to change our behaviours to ensure that fish stocks are available now, and for generations to come.”

Yesterday’s event was held at at River Cafe, Ocean Wise’s founding partner in Alberta (which has a cool story all in itself). The stars of the show were the cooking demonstrations with top Ocean Wise chefs in Calgary who spoke about their passion for saving our oceans.

While fileting a whole Ocean Wise lingcod, the program’s founding chef partner Robert Clark talked about how our actions in taking the strongest and biggest of all fish are essentially depleting the oceans of the “best of the best,” and how choosing sustainably can help reverse that direction.

Chef Robert Clark, founding chef partner of Ocean Wise, discusses the state of our oceans.

Chef Robert Clark, founding chef partner of Ocean Wise, discusses the state of our oceans.

Chef Paul Rogalski of Rouge Restaurant shared his love for Ocean Wise B.C. spot prawns as guests sampled fresh prawns that flew in from Vancouver just a couple days prior. These spot prawns are only in season for about six weeks of the year, so it was the perfect time for Paul’s demonstration.

You can't mistake the love that Chef Paul Rogalski of Rouge has for Ocean Wise B.C. spot prawns.

You can’t mistake the love that Chef Paul Rogalski of Rouge has for Ocean Wise B.C. spot prawns.

Next, Chef Kyle Groves of Catch & the Oyster Bar showed guests how to shuck and Ocean Wise oysters. Catch recently became 100 per cent Ocean Wise – not a simple feat, considering they have more than 80 seafood items on their menu!

Chef Kyle Groves of Catch & the Oyster Bar demonstrates how to shuck Ocean Wise oysters

Chef Kyle Groves of Catch & the Oyster Bar demonstrates how to shuck Ocean Wise oysters

Last, but certainly not least, River Cafe’s Chef Andrew Winfield displayed an impressive whole Ocean Wise octopus, and how to prepare it. Afterwards, he served up amazing confit giant Ocean Wise octopus with house-cured bison chorizo, roasted pepper, and salsa verde.

River Cafe's Chef Andrew Winfield brings out a beauty - a whole Ocean Wise octopus.

River Cafe’s Chef Andrew Winfield brings out a beauty – a whole Ocean Wise octopus.

Each cooking demonstration was followed up with tasty Ocean Wise canapes, distinctively prepared by River Cafe’s chef Andrew Winfield – and they did not disappoint!

Delicious Ocean Wise canapes created by River Cafe's Andrew Winfield - delicious.

Delicious Ocean Wise canapes created by River Cafe’s Andrew Winfield – delicious.

Other chef, restaurant, supplier, and business partners joined the celebration, including Albion Fisheries Ltd., which generously donated all of the seafood for the event, as well as Mission Hill Family Estate, which provided delicious fine wines to complement all of the tastings.

More and more, the future of our aquatic ecosystems is an issue hitting closer to home as we collectively face a situation where not only is our marine life quickly becoming depleted, but also the sensitive balance of the world’s ecosystem is being disrupted. Abundant and balanced ocean and freshwater life is essential to both our aquatic and terrestrial  ecosystems, which are all interdependent – the well-being of one ecosystem impacts others.

As consumers, the issue of overfishing warrants our immediate attention. The good news is that there are easy steps we can take. Look for the Ocean Wise symbol wherever you choose to enjoy seafood for Vancouver Aquarium’s assurance of an ocean-friendly choice. The free Ocean Wise iPhone app provides partner locations where you are, as well as recommendations for sustainable seafood choices. Ask your seafood suppliers and restaurants for their Ocean Wise choices, and if they’re not yet Ocean Wise, encourage them to join this growing movement.

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