James Beard Foundation Launches Smart Catch Sustainable Seafood Program

James Beard Foundation Smart Catch

One of the country’s most prominent culinary institutions is taking on the sustainability of the world’s seafood supply starting with the menus from some of America’s favorite chefs.

At the recent SeaWeb Seafood Summit in Seattle, the James Beard Foundation (JBF) announced the national launch of Smart Catch – a program created by chefs for chefs with the purpose of increasing the sustainability of the seafood supply chain.

More than 60 chefs representing more than 100 restaurants have already committed to the program, including a number of James Beard Award nominees and winners, such as:

  • Mario Batali’s Batali and Bastianich Hospitality group of restaurants
  • Michael Cimarusti’s Providence in Los Angeles
  • Renee Erickson’s Seattle restaurants
  • Mary Sue Milliken and Susan Feniger’s Border Grill restaurants in Los Angeles and Las Vegas
  • Bill Telepan and Oceana in New York City
  • Ryan Prewitt and Pesche in New Orleans
  • Hari Pulapaka’s Cress in Deland, Florida

The idea for Smart Catch is simple and powerful: the program provides training and support to chefs so they can serve seafood fished or farmed in environmentally responsible ways. And, by earning a Smart Catch emblem, consumers have a simple way to identify and support their restaurants. With more than 90 percent of the world’s fisheries either fully fished or overfished, preserving marine life to assure stable fishing stocks and promoting sustainably farmed options is more important than ever.

James Beard Foundation Smart Catch

“Chefs have the influence to educate our palates and our views,” said Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation. “Through Smart Catch, they are becoming new environmental heroes, as they use their influence to lead industry efforts to maintain healthy, sustainable food sources both now and for future generations.”

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Smart Catch works to increase the amount of sustainable seafood sold through U.S. restaurants by addressing the many barriers to getting sustainable seafood on a diner’s plate from reliable sources to chef training and consumer awareness. The program also seeks to engage the chef community in efforts to improve seafood production both domestically and abroad.

Chefs who commit to serve more than 80 percent sustainable seafood on their menus earn the Smart Catch emblem for their restaurant. Those who achieve more than 80 percent receive designation as a Smart Catch Leader. All Smart Catch restaurants are provided with menu consultations, staff training materials, up-to-date online sustainability assessments powered by FishChoice.com, marketing support, and guidance in working with their suppliers so they can make smart, environmentally responsible seafood choices.

Smart Catch’s sustainability criteria uses data from Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program and NOAA Fish Stock Sustainability Index. The criteria is based on wild and farmed seafood production and includes the health and abundance of fish stocks and impacts on the surrounding environment.

Developed by Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul G. Allen to make change on the water, Smart Catch piloted in Seattle in 2015 with almost 50 local chefs representing 80 Seattle restaurants taking part, including Renee Erickson, Ethan Stowell, Tom Douglas, Thierry Rautureau and Brendan McGill.

“The future of the world’s oceans depends on all of us choosing sustainable seafood,” said James Deutsch, conservation director for Paul Allen. “James Beard Foundation’s announcement of their national rollout of Smart Catch represents a giant step in that direction. We couldn’t be more proud of the continued growth of this pioneering program we piloted in Seattle.”

The new national pilot is one of James Beard Foundation’s Impact Programs, which aim to establish a more sustainable food system through education, advocacy, and thought leadership. In addition to running Smart Catch, the historic James Beard House will also become a Smart Catch participant.

To learn more about Smart Catch from the James Beard Foundation, visit their website