Ocean Wise Seafood is an ocean-conservation program, but we also strive to conserve and protect the world’s rivers and lakes. Ocean Wise Seafood has an office in Toronto and loves to boast about the bounty that Ontario has to offer, including seafood. For instance, did you know that Ontario is home to the world’s largest freshwater fishery? It’s true!
The province is home to many impressive aquaculture operations that are leading the way in changing our perceptions around farmed seafood. Earlier this month, Ocean Wise Seafood had the privilege of working alongside the Culinary Tourism Alliance and The University of Guelph to put together an event celebrating all things seafood and Ontario, called FISHSTOCK. This event, hosted at Ocean Wise partner restaurant P.J’s was designed to educate chefs on the importance of knowing where your seafood is coming from and how to have that conversation with your customers.
The jam-packed day began with a joint presentation from Kevin Reid, research scientist at the Ontario Commercial Fisheries Association, and Ned Bell, Ocean Wise’s Executive Chef. Dr. Reid provided the audience with a history of the Great Lakes, while Ned Bell chimed in with the chef’s perspective, describing fish flavour profiles and how sustainable seafood works in the restaurant setting. The take-home message focused on paying attention to local food sources and celebrating sustainable seafood flavours found at home.
Ontario is home to the world’s largest freshwater fishery.
Once the opening presentation concluded it was time for the chefs to get their hands dirty. Ned Bell and Chef Shaun Edmonstone of Bruce Wine Bar in Thornbury, Ontario led a workshop on filleting local lake fish. Each attendee filleted a pickerel (AKA walleye) caught with a gillnet from Lake Erie, as well as Arctic char farmed in land-based aquaculture at the Alma Research Station, part of the University of Guelph. The experience was bloody, informative and full of questions from chefs on about how to get their hands on lake fish for their restaurants.
We at Ocean Wise Seafood often find that when reaching out to consumers and chefs there is a common perception that farmed seafood is bad. This is a perspective we hope to change. Just like there are poorly managed fisheries on the water, there are also poorly managed fish farms, but this should not discredit all forms of aquaculture. To drive this point home, the event organizers invited the attendees on a tour of the Alma Research Station, where they learned about sustainable aquaculture practices and saw where the Arctic char they filleted were raised.The day concluded with a four-course Ontario lake fish-inspired dinner hosted at The Wooly Pub in Guelph, where the Neighborhood Group explained the sustainable restaurant model and how it works profitably with great relationships and proper sourcing.