It looks like r’s aren’t the only things getting dropped at Harvard: Over the last few years, Harvard University Dining Services (HUDS) has overhauled its operations to make its meals more ecologically friendly, and now unsustainable seafood is getting the chop.
In the last year, Dining Services began to examine the thousands of pounds of tuna, tilapia, salmon, and mahi-mahi being served to their seafood-hungry scholars, and realized that there was much room for change. These new changes reached their diners this fall, with students dining on new species like swai, and sustainable and regional versions of old favorites, like mussels from Prince Edward Island and shrimp caught in Maine waters.
“It’s part of our overall program in sustainable dining,” said David Davidson, managing director of HUDS. “We’re hoping we can come up with guidelines we can share with other schools.” To help guide them through the murky waters of seafood sustainability, Dining Services has enlisted the help of Barton Seaver, Washington DC chef, sustainable seafood advocate, National Geographic fellow, and frequent Oceana collaborator.
Seaver, who has also written the sustainable seafood book “For Cod and Country,” is working to design guidelines for large institutions like Harvard that continue to encourage seafood consumption, but that guide these institutions to sensibly use marine resources, substituting a different species with healthier numbers or more sustainable populations of the same fish from a different location. These kinds of changes will not only build a healthier ocean, but a healthier fishing industry. “The problem is we have eaten or irrationally used too many fish in the sea,” Seaver said. “However, we must … continue to participate in the bounty of the sea.”
Sustainability is a simpler but no less important habit to foster on an individual level. If you would like to follow HUDS good example on sustainability, make sure you know what’s on your plate: check a sustainable seafood guide, and purchase from reputable sources to be sure you don’t fall victim to all-too-common seafood fraud. Then try your hand at a sustainable recipe, like Barton Seaver’s Alaskan sablefish with warm cherry vinaigrette.
Although the Harvard Dining Services’ push for sustainable seafood is only in its infancy, they are showing clear successes in serving delicious seafood dishes that nurture the health of students and the environment alike. For that, we give them an A.