Inhuis explored the thinking behind the campaign by interviewing Lasse Gustavsson, Executive Director of Oceana Europe; and Andoni Luis Aduriz, internationally renowned chef and founder of the acclaimed Mugaritz restaurant in San Sebastián, Spain.
Lasse Gustavsson, Oceana Europe
Is the role of the chefs primarily a means of shining a spotlight on the launch of Save the Ocean and Feed the World, or do they have a more substantial, long-term role to play?
Both. The chefs were an effective way of communicating the campaign to a wider audience, but we also see them as important ambassadors for Oceana in the future. Their established popularity meant we could quickly reach out to receptive audiences in many countries, but this is far from a mere publicity stunt. The chefs are genuinely interested in the campaign, because the issue directly affects them and because they have the influence to make a difference. They are committed to a longterm role, as we are committed to developing our work together with them.
Can you provide some examples of less familiar, under-exploited species we should be eating?
Perhaps it is not the most under-exploited fish we need to eat, but rather the most misused. Anchoveta has been labelled “the most heavily exploited fish in world history”, yielding greater catches than any other wild fish species [over nine million tonnes annually]. Yet just a fraction of this bountiful resource makes its way onto our plates. It is predominately used as fishmeal, which is fed to farmed fish or pastoral livestock. If we ate species such as anchoveta directly instead of using them to feed our food, we would solve a lot of social and environmental problems simultaneously. Although better known, herring and mackerel are also underexploited as direct food sources.
Which are the main, traditionally consumed species that we need most to protect and re-build?
Large predatory fish such as cod, salmon and tuna are amongst those that need the most protection. Species such as these are higher up in the food chain and tend to have far longer reproductive periods than their counterparts lower down the chain, which means stocks take longer to recover from over-fishing. It will take many years to re-build their stocks, but with careful management it can be accomplished and we could even see future yields increase.
What level of success has the book “The Perfect Protein” achieved to date?
To date it has been published in three languages: English, Spanish, and Portuguese. French, German and Italian will follow soon. The first edition was actually released back in 2013 and sales in North America have been strong. The release of the second edition with additional language versions has resulted in a significant boost in European sales as well. It has been particularly successful as an e-book download from Amazon.
Could this campaign ultimately reach and influence poor, under-nourished people in the third world, or is it primarily focused on the wealthier nations and the influence they can exert?
The book is primarily focused on changing the food consumption habits of wealthier nations, but the overall aim of the campaign – to contribute to effective global fish stock management – will ultimately have the greatest impact on poorer countries by providing more food to feed under-nourished populations. Unlike poorer nations, the people of wealthier countries often have more choices about what they eat, and thus have the chance to adapt their behaviour for the better.
The livestock industry already uses one-third of the planet’ s land and a disproportionate quantity of natural resources. By comparison, the oceans, if restored, could have the capacity to provide a billion extra healthy meals a day.
Andoni Luis Aduriz, Mugaritz restaurant
Not all customers will be open-minded about sustainability; will you continue to present some traditional, if less sustainable, fish species to satisfy them?
Today is the time of the year when we welcome customers from over 50 countries. They travel here from all over the world, very often expressly to visit us. We don’t have a menu, but work with fresh ingredients, in particular local ones, buying from suppliers we consider “unique” in order to access the best produce each season offers. Every day, we create menus based on these ingredients, which are often humble in origin. For example, we like to highlight that the fish we use is line-caught from small boats that fish along our coast. All of the produce we use can be defined as sustainable and our customers always leave happy.
How easy is it to source the less familiar, but more abundant, species with which you are creating your recipes?
Mugaritz has now turned 17. We have used these years to grow in every way, technically as well as with regard to our suppliers, among which are some that devote themselves to fishing. For the past ten years we have been collaborating with the technology company AZTI-Tecnalia that, besides working on food technology, has a very important marine research department. To be honest, today it is not a problem if we cannot access more or less abundant species as what we cook all comes from responsible, sustainable fishing practices and is based on the catch that these boats offer us.
Will there come a point where your contribution becomes that of an ambassador of good practice, rather than a promoter of the Save the Ocean campaign?
Those who lead, rather than being all over the media, should be individuals. We have always tried to be consistent and lead by example. We specifically get involved in a more visible way if the goal of the campaign requires it and if our contribution can help to achieve its objectives. Of course, the ideal scenario will be when our actions speak louder than our words.
What reactions have you had so far from customers to your involvement in the campaign and to the new recipes you have offered them?
With regard to participating in the campaign, those who know about it see it as something positive; I don’t think there’s anyone who doesn’t want a better world. As for the dishes we offer, our customers have become accustomed to what we give them, and this will continue to happen as long as our food is both tasty and meaningful.