The Naramata Inn in the Okanagan has temporarily removed wild salmon from its summer menu, a decision chef Ned Bell said he made in an effort to allow salmon populations to recover. “It is a species that needs all the love we can give it.”
Bell, who is a former Ocean Wise executive chef, said that it’s a temporary measure and he looks forward to bringing salmon back on his menu and supporting community fisheries again.
The Vancouver-based Ocean Wise Conservation Association rates the sustainability of seafood so that consumers can avoid eating species that are over-fished or in decline.
For the time being, Bell has replaced salmon on the menu with lake trout from Kamloops.
“I want to know who and where and what and how a species was harvested and if it is abundant. If I can’t answer those questions, then I’m not going to put it on my menu.”
Director of fisheries and seafood at Ocean Wise, Sophika Kostyniuk, explained there are a number of complex factors that contribute to the current decrease in salmon populations. This includes, but is not limited to, warming waters from climate change, industrial pollution, agricultural runoff, barriers to salmon migration such as dams, predator-prey interactions and potential overfishing.
Ocean Wise currently rates only two Pacific salmon species from very specific locations as sustainable: coho and chinook caught with gillnets in the Stikine and Taku rivers.
However, there currently is not an Ocean Wise recommendation for the other three species: pink, sockeye and chum.
Kostyniuk explained that this is due to a lack of data from the Department of Fisheries and Oceans Canada (DFO). Ocean Wise is currently waiting on this data to make a recommendation.
“Salmon is one of the most complex species out there to manage, to assess adequately and to really understand.”
In June, the DFO closed 60 per cent of commercial salmon fisheries in B.C. and the Yukon to conserve stocks. According to the federal government, these stocks are on the “verge of collapse.”
B.C. restaurants join protest
While Bell says the Naramata Inn does not intend to make a political statement, other B.C. restaurants have come forward in protest of overfishing.
PiDGiN in Vancouver’s Gastown neighbourhood has Pacific salmon on their menu. However, owner Brandon Grossutti now sources the salmon from a sustainable aquaculture farm in New Zealand to drive home his point about B.C. salmon.
Burdock & Co, also located in Vancouver, removed locally sourced Pacific salmon from their menu several years ago.
“It makes a statement — it allows both the chefs in the restaurants and their customers to really reconsider their options,” said Kostyniuk.
Kostyniuk added that it also allows chefs to experiment with different species and encourages diversity in consumption.
Bell noted there are still opportunities for chefs to support small fishing operations by paying a fair price for their catch.