On the afternoon of March 4, four leading Canadian non-profits, five passionate chefs and a team of supporters held a reception on Parliament Hill with one goal: to have March 18 officially designated as an annual National Sustainable Seafood Day in Canada.

Ocean Wise, chef partners, and other NGOs gathered in chilly Ottawa to celebrate and renew calls for a National Sustainable Seafood Day.

Proponents of National Sustainable Seafood Day on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Proponents of National Sustainable Seafood Day on Parliament Hill in Ottawa.

Members of Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise team, along with Vancouver’s Chef Robert Clark and Chef Ned Bell, arrived into the chilly capital city to kick off the week with partner The Whalesbone opening their doors for a networking and education night. The two West Coast chefs, along with Whalesbone owner Joshua Bishop, talked about their experiences sourcing and serving Ocean Wise seafood for a full room of interested and engaged industry folks from around Ottawa. With Beau’s All Natural Brewing and Mission Hill Family Estate sponsoring the evening, good beer and wine was flowing right along with the conversation, with everyone connected by their common commitment to cook to save our seas.

The next day was the main event: a reception on Parliament Hill for MPs and Senators to create support for the motion to designate March 18 as National Sustainable Seafood Day. Building on the momentum of last year’s event with speakers David Suzuki and Barton Seaver, efforts around creating this day is growing, as well as the team working to make this a reality. Ocean Wise, Sea Choice and Chef Ned Bell initiated the idea in 2012 at the Canadian Chefs’ Congress in 2012 and, put their idea in action with a petition with Member of Parliament Finn Donnelly. This year, WWF Canada and Greenpeace Canada joined the movement, helping to launch the idea in Ottawa and bolster support for this day.

Our organizing team trickled into Parliament, dashing upstairs to watch the Parliament sessions, while setting up our small room to feature amazing sustainable seafood samples and our participating chefs. The event saw fantastic attendance, with over 100 people dropping in and speaking to NGO groups about the topic of sustainable seafood. We met MPs, senators and staffers from all across Canada, representing all parties, many in agreement that the day would be a great thing for Canada. And in usual Ocean Wise style, the food was amazing:

Chef Ned Bell of YEW seafood + bar prepared scallops with lime, B.C. honey, and cranberries, with Agassiz hazelnuts donated by Vancouver-based fishermen and seafood supply partner Organic Ocean.

Founding Ocean Wise partner Robert Clark of The Fish Counter prepared an albacore tuna tataki with troll-caught B.C. albacore tuna also donated by Organic Ocean.

Jonathan Lapierre-Réhayem from Laloux in Montreal prepared marinated rainbow trout with Labrador tea, green apple, fennel and spruce featuring the trout from Ocean Wise partner Ferme Piscole des Bobines in Quebec.

Walid El-Tawel of Restaurant 18 in Ottawa created a smoked yellow perch terrine with pickled salad from Lake Erie perch donated by Preseve Foods Ltd and La Nassa Foods.

Kate Klenavic from Whalesbone Catering in Ottawa made shrimp shumai with slaw and cilantro lime white soy vin with trap-caught Northern shrimp from a small-scale fisherman in Chedabucto Bay, Nova Scotia and transported via the Ecology Action Centre’s Off the Hook Community Supported Fishery in Halifax – direct from the fisherman to the doors at The Whalesbone.

Whether National Sustainable Seafood Day will be made official by government is yet to be seen – so while we wait with baited breaths, please sign the petition and send it to your friends! Regardless, next year on March 18, we will all be celebrating no matter whether the day becomes official or not. We will celebrate these trailblazing chefs, seafood distributers, farmers and fishermen who are working hard to tell the right stories about seafood and ensure the future of our fish and healthy marine ecosystems.

The next steps? Chef Ned Bell will be riding his bike from Newfoundland to Vancouver Island this summer to unite the country on the idea of a National Sustainable Seafood Day. It’s impossible not to be inspired by such passion and dedication, and the momentum for our official day is only growing.

Overfishing is the biggest issue facing our oceans today. Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Wise program works with chef, restaurant, retail and market partners across Canada to provide sustainable seafood options for consumers. Look for the Ocean Wise symbol for Vancouver Aquarium’s assurance of an ocean-friendly seafood choice. Learn more about Ocean Wise at oceanwise.ca.

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