Twenty chefs from some of the world’s leading dining establishments got together last March in the Basque Culinary Center of San Sebastian, Spain. The purpose of the exclusive gathering was to discuss the need for joint actions that would promote the preservation of the oceans and clear the path for ending world hunger.
The event was part of an initiative developed by Oceana (www.oceana.org), the largest international defense organization in the fight for ocean conservation, which recently launched the "Save the Oceans and Feed the World Campaign."
The UN predicts that the global population will grow from seven to more than nine billion people by 2050, and the world will have to produce 70 percent more food to feed its populace. Oceana believes our oceans can help address this challenge as a primary source of nutritious protein. But the organization admits the oceans are in trouble, and warns that if preventive measures are not taken, wild fish and seafood could soon wane as an essential source of nourishment in a hungry planet.
The ecological body also believes this trend can be reversed. According to Oceana’s data, 30 countries control more than 90 percent of the wild fish and seafood caught globally. By establishing a scientific management infrastructure that invites fisheries to stop overfishing, reduce bycatch and protect the marine habitat—the organization argues—the oceans could provide a nutritious meal every day for one billion people.
The primary objectives of the campaign are to promote changes in the legislature of the major fishing countries and to encourage consumption of what they call "perfect protein", present in fish species of lower trophic level such as sardines, herring, and anchovies. Many of these smaller species are used to make flour and fish oil and to feed other fish and livestock such as salmon, chickens, pigs and other animals, instead of using them for human consumption.
To support this initiative, the chefs gathered in Spain to reach an agreement and committed to serving dishes prepared with small fish during World Oceans Day, to be held next June 8, 2015. The great chefs also agreed to promote—among their clients—the consumption of small fish while advising that mid-size wild local fish should be consumed only during the season.
"Just as we always speak of seasonal vegetables, now we must bet for fresh, seasonal fish," says the Italian chef Massimo Bottura. Basque Chef Elena Arzak agrees with him: "At the restaurant we always feature and offer seasonal fish. And that, ultimately, is appreciated by the public."
The event in San Sebastian is the first time so many notable chefs come together in support of marine conservation. The stellar list included: Grant Achatz (Alinea, USA), Gastón Acurio (Astrid y Gaston, Peru), Ferran Adrià (El Bulli Foundation Spain,), Andoni Luiz Aduriz (Mugaritz, Spain), Juan Mari and Elena Arzak (Arzak, Spain), Alex Atala (DOM, Brazil), Massimo Bottura (Osteria Francescana, Italy), José Luis González (Vask Gallery, Philippines), Brett Graham (The Ledbury, UK), Rodolfo Guzmán (Boragó, Chile) Daniel Humm (Eleven Madison Park, United States), Normand Laprise (Toqué, Canada), Enrique Olvera (Pujol, Mexico), René Redzepi (Noma, Denmark), Heinz Reitbauer (Steirereck, Austria), Joan Roca (El Celler de Can Roca, Spain), Pedro Subijana (Akelare, Spain), Joachim Wissler (Vendôme, Germany) and Ashley Palmer-Watts (Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, UK).
"We must take strong and direct action on the problems related to food sources, and appeal to ethics and environmental awareness," says Chef Joan Roca. "Our message is simple: if you take care of your health, you also take care of the planet´s health." ■
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