wet market

Hong Kong needs a new seafood trend. Marine Conservationist Doug Woodring Tells us why

ADMCF Aquaculture, Dining, Health, Overfishing Leave a Comment

Hong Kong grew up as a fishing village, and were it not for its proximity to the ocean, with nice bays and islands, it would neither have a fishing and seafood history, nor would it be so valuable as one of the world’s largest trading ports. Our collective quest for more variety, larger volumes and the ability to pay for it all, meant that more boats were invested in, and by the 1980’s, most of Hong Kong’s local fishing resources were depleted. We then started to move farther afield for resources that were caught on other people’s’ reefs in Asia, often done in a destructive manger, leaving those reefs stripped of fish, with the locals left to fend with what might have been left. Today, all fish that are live in a tank at a restaurant are from a reef somewhere, and that somewhere is far from Hong Kong, likely from places that many of us like to go on vacation, to dive, snorkel or even try to enjoy their local seafood.

On a global scale, the amount of fishing equipment, vessels, technology processing capacity, cold storage, and transportation, has meant that now over 80% of all of the large fish species have been removed from the sea, with many under threat of extinction.  Over 110 million tonnes of seafood is extracted from the ocean each year, which is the weight of over 10 million Hong Kong trams.  Most of this resource extraction has been to fill the stomachs of those in developed countries who have money and want choice, not to fulfill the needs of over 1billion people a day who only derive their daily protein from the sea.  These are the small artisanal fishermen and their families with small boats, many of whom are trying to survive in a climate modified planet, where the term “resilience” has been used by those in developed countries, essentially to mean “build defenses and hold on tight” for what the weather and climate might serve us.  The one billion people who have lost their resources due to the overfishing, destructive fishing practices and pollution or development related coastal losses, means that the term resilience is even harder to quantify.

The King Hong Seafood Festival in Hong Kong is a celebration of the F&B outlets and companies who are leading the way in understanding that our ocean is highly threatened and that our continued level of seafood consumption cannot continue at its current rates.  Kin Hong means “healthy” in Chinese, and represents both healthy seafood and healthy methods of catch or cultivation.  Even China has realized this, by for the first time ever, putting a 4-month moratorium on coastal fishing in all of the Chinese waters – because they had to admit that they have no more fish.  That directly puts over 3 million people out of work for the summer months as the moratorium plays its way through.

Consumers in Hong Kong surveys have shown they will, and want to eat sustainably if they know how to do it, which means better labeling and outreach from the leaders that these options are available.  This is important, because on a per-capita basis, Hong Kong is one of the biggest seafood consumers in the world, and that means the “earth dent” that we create from our actions is bigger than most cities anywhere.  The great news is that you can, therefore, make a bigger difference than many others, because your actions to support sustainable seafood, has a big ripple effect across our sea.  

This year we also have restaurants from the US, Macau, China and in the air, both Cathay Pacific and Virgin Atlantic.  We all use the same ocean, and over 90% of all of Hong Kong’s seafood comes from someone else’s waters, so we should want to know where it’s from, how it was caught or harvested, and if it is polluted or not. 

Sustainable seafood also does not need to be more expensive, and in fact, if you want to make sure it is healthy, you probably do not want to be buying the cheaper seafood which has been sourced in high volume, potentially low-quality ways, much likely coming from illegal sources, and waters that are not clean, all of which make it cheaper.  

We hope that you can be part of this exciting event, and can get out to enjoy this food from some of the over 100 restaurants, hotels and caterers involved who are all proud to be part of this new trend in food awareness which benefits all of us along the way.   Some of those participating include:

American Club, AOC Eat & Drink, Bostonian Seafood Bar + Grill, Bungalow, Cafe – Hyatt Regency, Catalunya, Chili Fagara, CitySuper, Crystal Lotus, Disney Explorer Lodge, Elephant Grounds – Mid-Levels, Feast (Food by East), Finds, Fishsteria, Grand Café, Grand Hyatt Steakhouse, Grissini, IKEA – Kowloon Bay, IKEA – Shatin, Island Shangri-la (Lobster Bar & Grill), Island Shangri-la (Petrus), Kaetsu, L47 Morgan Stanley, Le Bistro Winebeast, Lily & Bloom, Limewood, Main Street Corner Cafe, Mercato, Mirage Restaurant + Bar, Neptune’s Restaurant, One Harbour Grill, Plat Du Jour (PP), Plat Du Jour (Tai Koo), Pololi, Rech by Alain Ducasse, Shangri-la Kowloon (Angelini), Shangri-la Kowloon (Shang Palace), Shore, Studio Lounge, The Globe, The Grill, The Lighthouse, Walt’s Cafe, Fish & Meat, Gia Trattoria, Le 188, 238 Grill, Cali-Mex, Carpaccio, DiVino Patio, DiVino Wine Bar & Restaurant, Sohofama, Spasso, The Grill Room, Watami, Youni, Armani Prive, Fish School, Picada, Akisan, Capital M (Beijing), M on the Bund (Shanghai), M Glam (Shanghai), Twenty Five Lusk (San Francisco), Crave Fish Bar (New York), Royal Hong Kong Yacht Club, MGM Macau, Cathay Pacific Airways Limited (select routes), Cathay Pacific Catering Services, (HK) Ltd., and Virgin Atlantic Airways (selected routes including HK/London), City University (City Express, AC2 Canteen, AC3 Bistro, City Chinese Restaurant & City Top), Hong Kong Jockey Club (selected restaurants), Compass Catering Group, Starbucks (HK).

Please spread the word, and the festival trailer – http://bit.ly/KinHongSeafoodIntro

Also, if you tag your best sustainable seafood photo during September at one of the participating venues, you could win a signed copy of award-winning chef Matthew Dolan’s recipe book for sustainable seafood, “Simply Fish”, from San Francisco’s hot restaurant, Twenty Five Lusk.  You can also keep track of the trends, suppliers and vendors of sustainable seafood by following the site Choose Right Today.

Author: Doug Woodring. Founder, Ocean Recovery Alliance

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