Food & Water Watch Partners with Washington, DC Chefs to Oppose Controversial Gulf Aquaculture Plan and Rally to Support Sustainable Seafood

For Immediate Release

Contact: 

Marianne Cufone or Erin Greenfield (202) 683-2500

Food & Water Watch Partners with Washington, DC Chefs to Oppose Controversial Gulf Aquaculture Plan and Rally to Support Sustainable Seafood

WASHINGTON - Today, renowned Washington D.C.-area chefs emerged from their kitchens to partner with Food & Water Watch and stir up a diverse crowd of activists, foodies and policy experts to rally against the controversial Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council ocean fish farming plan currently being considered by the U.S. Department of Commerce. Donning chef aprons and toques outside the department’s building, the group spoke in opposition to the plan that could threaten consumer health, the environment and coastal communities if approved at the federal level. Both chefs and Food & Water Watch experts advocated for a program for better wild fisheries management and more sustainable aquaculture to meet our nation’s seafood needs.

“Whether we’re chefs or consumers, we all deserve to have clean, green and safe seafood,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. “The Gulf Council fish farming plan could put another industrially farmed product on our plates at a time when Americans are increasingly demanding food produced in a healthy and sustainable manner.”

The Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, one of eight regional councils that manage the fisheries, voted on a plan to open gulf waters to industrial fish farming in January 2009, despite overwhelming public opposition. Offshore aquaculture - the growing thousands of fish crammed in cages three to 100 miles offshore - are similar to massive industrial chicken farms in the ocean, with many fish in cramped quarters, eating, excreting and growing. According to Food & Water Watch’s report Fishy Farms, the fish produced from offshore aquaculture may be hazardous to human health.  In the case of salmon, farmed fish contain higher levels of PCBs, dioxin, flame retardants, pesticides, and other toxins than wild fish because these contaminants are often present in the fish that are ground up for feed. These substances, combined with concentrated fish wastes, could also pollute the marine environment and damage oceans.

“The public is leading the demand for more sustainable seafood, and it’s my job as a chef to reach out to other chefs and help them meet consumer needs,” said Chef Rocky Barnette, Food & Water Watch liaison chef. “The more you have access to fresh, sustainable fish, the less you have to do in the cooking process – the better the fish, the less you have to do with it.”

Barnette was joined by other Washington, D.C.-area chefs including: Cedric Maupaillier, Central Michel Richard; Chris Edwards, Patowmack Farm; Conner Ireland, The Reef; and Shannon Overmiller, Majestic. Other chefs from D.C.-area and Baltimore restaurants, including Gertrude's and Cashion's, signed a petition urging the U.S. Department of Commerce to oppose the Gulf Management Council ocean fish farming plan.

Marianne Cufone, director of the fish program at Food & Water Watch, delivered the petition with over 150 signatures to the U.S. Department of Commerce during today’s rally. The plan is currently before the department for final approval and open to public comment.

“We have yet to hear from Commerce Secretary Locke whether or not he intends to move forward with this potentially environmentally destructive and economically devastating plan,” said Cufone. “Chefs are just the latest group added to a long list of critics – including members of Congress - to the Gulf plan, and hopefully today’s rally will be the impetus for Secretary Locke in stopping this unpopular and controversial plan in its tracks.”

The rally will be held today at 12:00pm at Pershing Park, 14th St. and Pennsylvania Ave.

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Food & Water Watch is a nonprofit consumer organization that works to ensure clean water and safe food. We challenge the corporate control and abuse of our food and water resources by empowering people to take action and by transforming the public consciousness about what we eat and drink.

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