San Francisco’s Pier 39, the Fisherman’s Wharf tourist playground packed with lovers of fast food and plastic souvenirs, took a leap forward with the opening of Fog Harbor Fish House, the Wharf’s first Seafood Watch Alliance partner restaurant. Fog Harbor serves over 220,000 visitors every year with a menu that is now filled with 100% sustainable seafood, including wild caught salmon, Dungeness crab and Pacific Cod.
The founders of San Francisco’s Seafood Watch Alliance (the Aquarium of the Bay, California Academy of Sciences and San Francisco Zoo) have recruited dozens of member restaurants. They were motivated by the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program, which encourages consumers and businesses to purchase seafood that is fished or farmed in ways that don’t harm the environment. It's important to note that there is not complete agreement in restaurant and fisherman circles about the criteria for determining "sustainability," and some fisherman complain that the "green" message is confusing, not fully credible scientifically and is over-politicized.
Seafood Watch labels its choices are ranked Best, Good Alternatives and Avoid. Noting that nearly 85% of the world's fisheries are fished to capacity, or overfished, Seafood Watch says it considers the entire context – the fishery, habitat, species, management, and other factors that affect each species. The campaign as embraced by grocery stores also is controversial.
The impetus for Fog Harbor's participation came in part from the Aquarium of the Bay, the San Francisco region’s only aquarium dedicated totally to San Francisco Bay, an incomparable world treasure which like its habitat is threatened by pollution, construction runoff, agribusiness and much more. When the Aquarium merged three years ago with the science-based nonprofit, The Bay Institute, its exhibits took on even more of an environmental message. Its conservation team worked with Fog Harbor to help reshape the image of Pier 39, the city's largest attraction for out of town visitors but one that is largely disdained by locals.