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Scenes from The University of Rhode Island

For chef, Farm-Raised Salmon Can Be “Sustainable”

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KINGSTON, R.I. – June 23, 2011 – Can a restaurant that creates a daily menu featuring fresh, local, organic ingredients include farm-raised salmon? According to Chef Chris Aerni, owner of the Rossmount Inn in New Brunswick, Canada, the answer is a qualified yes.

Aerni is one of the featured speakers at the 10th annual Ronald C. Baird Sea Grant Science Symposium, "Developing the Rhode Island Seafood Knowledge Economy: Perspectives on Seafood Sustainability.” Co-hosted by the Rhode Island Sea Grant, the University of Rhode Island and Johnson and Wales University, the symposium is being held in Providence Sunday, June 26 through Tuesday, June 28.

“We all know some of the problems with farmed salmon,” said Aerni, who will be speaking on the topic of farmed salmon and sustainability.

He argues that locally grown salmon raised using ecologically sound practices is more sustainable than importing wild-caught species from far-away Alaska or New Zealand. So while you will find farmed Atlantic salmon on his menu, you won’t see shrimp or Pacific Ocean species – ever.

What’s the difference?

First, locality is important. Tourists come to his restaurant as a “culinary destination,” seeking local seafood. Much as he selects other food from local farms, he chooses seafood from local suppliers, and, in the case of farmed salmon, from a company that practices an ecologically sensitive way of cultivating fish known as “integrated multi-trophic aquaculture,” in which different species are raised together so that the byproducts from one provide food for the other.

Also, Aerni takes issue with the idea that only wild-caught species are sustainable.

“We farm everything on land and that has a great acceptance,” he said. “We don’t have wild Atlantic salmon. We’ve shot the last buffalo.”

Meanwhile, he questions whether all the food labeled “organic” or “sustainable” really is.

“Who is certifying these things?” Aerni asked. By choosing local products, he says he can verify these claims for himself, and support a business that is “trying to do the right thing.”

The Baird symposium is open to the public and features chefs, scientists, seafood suppliers, and other experts discussing the ecological, economic, and health considerations of sustainable seafood, with a focus on their relevance for Rhode Island.

“More and more restaurants and retailers are getting questions from their customers about where their seafood comes from, and if it's sustainable, but answering that question can be difficult,” said Cathy Roheim, URI professor of natural resource economics and head of the URI Sustainable Seafood Initiative.

“Is sustainable seafood harvested locally or using specific methods? Can farmed salmon be sustainable? Are some types of seafood more healthful than others? This symposium looks at all those issues to help sort them out for suppliers so they can educate their customers."

The symposium offers different viewpoints on what makes seafood sustainable, including environmental, economic, and health aspects. A focus will be on locally important species, both those produced in the region and those frequently available for sale to Rhode Island consumers.

One more highlight is the opportunity for participants to prepare seafood dishes for the symposium dinner on Monday, June 27 under the guidance of expert chefs. Space is limited; early registration is encouraged. The registration fee of $175 includes all meals noted in the agenda.

For more information, including agenda and registration materials, please visit seagrant.gso.uri.edu/baird/2011_seafood.html, or contact Tracy Kennedy at 401.874.6800 or tkennedy@gso.uri.edu.