Widely acclaimed as Calgary’s best seafood eatery, and certainly its biggest, Calgary’s Catch Restaurant & Oyster Bar just went 100 per cent Ocean Wise.

For Chef Kyle Groves, the move from partly to fully Ocean Wise makes perfect sense. Beyond enhancing Catch’s cachet with foodies and conservationists, its commitment to serving only sustainable seafood is a way to educate staff, diners, and even other chefs, says Groves.

“I believe strongly in the program. We think this is something that can set us apart from other restaurants, set a standard, and set a goal for restaurants around us. If we can be 100 percent on board with this program, with 85 different menu items, I’d call it a throw-down for restaurants that only have two or three seafood items on their menus.”

Part of the challenge for Catch’s staff is convincing diners that sometimes aquaculture, or farmed food, is a viable option. Groves says his servers inform their customers, for example, that the arctic char on the menu is farmed using a zero exchange system where the farmers use the char’s waste as fertilizer, and there’s no chance of the fish escaping into the wild.

“It’s still a farmed fish, but it’s a great option for sustainability and the product is top-notch.”

Groves has been asking his suppliers to bring him only Ocean Wise products for years now, and guiding them to the items he needs. Among the popular ingredients he’s been able to find are sustainably farmed Green Prairie and Woods prawns from Alabama and Florida, and Ocean Wise lobsters.

Lobsters were a particular concern because people expect them on Canadian seafood menus, but traditional East Coast catching methods in the migration path of right whales had resulted in those endangered whales getting tangled in lobster trap lines. The traps used for Ocean Wise lobsters have a brake that snaps under the massive pressure a tangled whale exerts, and those traps are set in areas away from the whales’ migration path.

The staff elevator at Catch is loaded with Ocean Wise data so servers are always informed. Before he knew about Ocean Wise, says Groves, it would never have occurred to him that his tasty bowl of lobster chowder put whales at further risk.

“If you can tell (customers) a story about it, they’ll remember it more, and think about it the next time they’re ordering dinner.”

In his continuing effort to promote sustainable seafood, Groves has thrown delicious challenges his customers’ way, featuring less familiar fish, like relatively oily mackerel. Though he experienced some resistance at first, he says some customers now have a taste for mackerel, as well as for octopus and Humboldt squid.

“With the Ocean Wise progam, the sustainability is great, but at the end of the day if it doesn’t taste great, then you’re going to have customers that are not really happy with it,” says Groves. “So we’re only going to buy and work with a product that is Ocean Wise and a great product.”

Congratulations to the team at Catch! So much Ocean Wise love happening in Calgary.

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