After I spoke with Casson Trenor a couple of weeks ago, we both became aware of Martin Reed, who has just started a business called I Love Blue Sea. Mr. Reed is a retailer who’s doing the work for you, buying and selling seafood he has verified as sustainable.
There’s a lot of appeal in this business, which is only a few weeks old, and Web-based (the physical location is in San Francisco). Mr. Reed’s goal, other than to make a living, is “to be a pioneer in selling only sustainable seafood, and in being upfront about where things come from and how they’re caught.”
Sounds good. But I had two questions. One: How do you know what you’re buying? His answer: “We use all third party standards, like those of Greenpeace (nothing from the “red list”) and the Monterey Bay Aquarium (no “avoid” fish) ” If he knows that “pirating” (as illegal fishing is called) is big with a certain species, he won’t sell it at all. (Thus, no yellowfin.) And he is insisting that suppliers sell him only fish that can be traced — individually — through bills of lading and bar codes.
The second question concerns cost. The seafood on Mr. Reed’s site is quite fairly priced when you consider that it’s the kind of seafood we want to be buying. The selection is good, too – not as broad as in many big seafood markets, but then again, you’re not worrying about the source. There is occasionally some farm-raised fish where the wild resource is sustainable, and to me this doesn’t make sense, but remember he’s buying West Coast fish and I’m an East Coast person, so our experiences are different.
But the shipping necessarily includes frozen gel-packs and insulated boxes, which add considerably to weight and volume — thus making overnight Fedex charges high: fifty bucks, in the case of my sample order, which was for fish that cost about the same amount.
This is obviously not Mr. Reed’s fault, but it is his problem. He acknowledges this, but says that “After you get to five or ten pounds of product your order will be less expensive than if you bought a similar product at a supermarket.” I don’t know about that, but what is for sure is that, as he says, “There aren’t similar offerings in most parts of the country.”
Mr. Reed says, “We want to change the way the seafood industry works,” and I believe this is our only hope. If you think about what the word “sustainable” means, and you accept the notion that for the most part, the current state of the seafood industry is anything but, it is accountability on the part of purchasers that can move the industry in the right direction. And by taking on a bigger share of the responsibility, retailers like Mr. Reed make it easier for consumers to do the right thing.