Industry News | April 22, 2010

Delaware North Takes Sustainable Seafood Pledge

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Chefs and other culinary officials of Delaware North Companies are turning their attention to the water this Earth Day.

The global leader in hospitality and foodservice will pledge Thursday to refrain from using 90 percent of the fish and seafood species that are listed on the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch "avoid" list. A plan to address the remaining 10 percent will be drafted by this year's end.

The Earth Day pledge, to be announced companywide, will coincide with a visit to Delaware North's worldwide headquarters in Buffalo, New York, from Ed Cassano, senior director of conservation outreach for the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

"This formalizes what we have been working toward for several years," says Jerry Jacobs Jr., a Delaware North principal and founder of the company's Culinary and Hospitality Council, which drafted the new policy. "Many of our chefs have long been incorporating sustainable ingredients into their menus, and we wanted consistency in those efforts."

Christian DeVos, a chef who is co-chairman of the Culinary and Hospitality Council and vice president of food and beverage for Delaware North's Parks & Resorts division, said the council insisted that no matter what policy was established, it should be achievable and measurable. Most of all, it needed to be impactful.

"It's tempting to set the bar at a low, safe height when drafting a policy like this, but we wanted something with teeth. The chefs, in particular, pushed the issue, saying, 'We're on board. Let's do it.'"

DeVos is so committed to the idea of sustainable seafood that he encouraged the chefs under his watch to go beyond the 90-percent goal. At a meeting in January at The Queen Mary, one of Delaware North Companies Parks & Resorts' managed properties, DeVos met with the support of Kevin Kelly, the operating company's president, and the rest of the leadership team in adopting a goal of 100 percent for the division that operates and owns hotels and resorts, and operates visitor services in Yosemite, Yellowstone, and Grand Canyon national parks and Kennedy Space Center. New restaurant and banquet menus will be created to offer seafood only from healthy and abundant fish populations that are harvested responsibly.

"With the many restaurants and quick-serve food concepts that we operate in very visible locations and that serve guests from all over the world, our seafood choices have the power to help preserve the oceans," Jacobs says.

Delaware North is also a company with great culinary expertise, whose chefs are using more and more sustainable food sources, Jacobs says. Corporate Chef Roland Henin, a certified master chef and internationally recognized culinary expert, has guided Delaware North's chefs in making sustainability an important consideration in menu development. He will now assist chefs in creating new, sustainable seafood dishes.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch is a guide to the species that environmentally conscious companies and consumers should use, as well as threatened species - labeled "avoid" seafood - they should avoid. Examples include Chilean sea bass, trawled haddock and Atlantic cod.

Overfishing - catching fish faster than they can reproduce - is an urgent and devastating issue, and may be the single-biggest threat to ocean ecosystems, according to the aquarium. Today, 75 percent of the world's fisheries are either fully exploited or overexploited, or have collapsed altogether. Aquarium studies have estimated the global fishing fleet is operating at 2.5 times the sustainable level - that there are simply too many boats chasing a dwindling number of fish.

The aquarium's guidelines are based on scientific research that identifies seafood that is abundant, well-managed and caught or farmed in environmentally friendly ways.

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