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UC Berkeley achieves sustainable seafood certification

Cal Dining's commitment to seafood sustainability has led to UC Berkeley being named the first public university to achieve certification from the Marine Stewardship Council. The globally-recognized MSC ecolabel will begin appearing this summer on menus and at food stations where MSC-certified seafood is served.

salmon fishing

Alaska salmon fishing (photo courtesy of Marine Stewardship Council)

Five years after becoming the first university dining program in the country to achieve organic certification, Cal Dining at the University of California, Berkeley, has achieved another first. It is the first public university in the nation to be awarded  Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for its commitment to seafood sustainability, the MSC announced today (Monday, June 20).

Sustainable seafood refers to seafood caught in a way that ensures the long-term health and stability of individual fish stocks and of the surrounding oceans’ ecological balance.

“Cal has taken an important step,” said Kerry Coughlin, regional director for MSC’s Americas region. “The more institutions and fisheries and retailers that are certified sustainable, the more we know fish are going to be around for future generations.”

The MSC is an independent, global, non-profit organization that contributes to the health of the world’s oceans and helps preserve fishing-related livelihoods by recognizing and rewarding sustainable fishing practices and by working with partners to transform the seafood market to a sustainable basis.

The MSC's ecolabelIts globally-recognized ecolabel designates seafood that can be traced through every step of the supply chain to show it has not contributed to the environmental problem of overfishing. At UC Berkeley’s four dining halls – Crossroads, Café 3, Foothill and Clark Kerr – the labels will begin appearing this summer on menus and at food stations, and students will learn more about the MSC certification from dining hall posters and tabletop ads.

“At UC Berkeley, our diverse student body enjoys eating seafood in the dining facilities, and we’re proud to be able to provide them with items including tuna, cod, flounder, mussels and salmon that will bear the MSC ecolabel,” said Shawn LaPean, executive director of dining for UC Berkeley’s Housing & Dining Operations. “We buy safe, sustainable fish as much as possible and will highlight what we buy as sustainable.”

Some of the most popular seafood dishes served in the campus dining halls are lemon parmesan flounder and black bean mussels, he said.

To be certified by the MSC, a dining program must be able to prove that the seafood comes from an MSC certified supplier and is stored apart from non-MSC certified seafood. MSC’s “Chain of Custody” certificate is good for three years, subject to annual audits.

Chuck Davies, UC Berkeley’s associate director of residential dining, said the Chain of Custody process was straightforward. “Once we had our MSC sourcing in place, getting certified was pretty easy,” he said. “This is a tremendous way to educate our students and turn them into valuable buyers down the road.”

“Cal Dining’s certification will carry a lot of weight in the higher education sector,” said Coughlin. “It will drive consumer awareness among young people and educate them about what’s going on in the seafood world and how they can be agents for change.”

“When consumers or retailers select MSC certified seafood,” she added, “they are rewarding sustainable fishing practices on the water.”

Last week, McDonald’s announced that 7,000 McDonald’s restaurants across 39 European countries had achieved the MSC Chain of Custody trabeability standard and that, beginning in October, 13 million customers in Europe will be able to buy MSC certified fish.

Coughlin said there are 10,500 seafood products bearing the MSC ecolabel and more than 100 fisheries worldwide that are MSC certified. About 10 percent of the world’s fisheries by volume of annual catch are in the program, he said,

Cal Dining received the nation’s first organic certification on a college campus in March 2006, and the first organic salad bar on campus was launched at Crossroads the following month. Today, all four dining halls are certified and feature organic salad bars. The dining program also is audited for its use of sustainable products and of resources such as water to meet the standards of the Bay Area Green Business Program.

Part of UC Berkeley’s Residential and Student Services Program, Cal Dining is a self-supporting business auxiliary of the campus. It serves approximately 30,000 customers each day, year round.