Ocean Wise Seafood is a Vancouver-based program that protects the environment and encourages restaurants and businesses to serve sustainably-caught seafood.
It’s a Canada-wide initiative which also has participating businesses in as many as ten other countries.
In this article you’ll learn about the Ocean Wise Seafood program and Vancouver-area restaurants that serve ocean-friendly and sustainably-farmed fish and other seafood products. You’ll also learn a little bit about the Ocean Wise Conservation Association which is the organization behind Ocean Wise Seafood and the Vancouver Aquarium.
To jump to our list of places with menus serving sustainably-caught fish and other tasty items, click Vancouver Ocean Wise Restaurants.
Ocean Wise: The Program and the Organization
The Ocean Wise Seafood (OWS) program is an initiative of the Ocean Wise Conservation Association which is a non-profit organization whose mission is “to inspire the global community to become Ocean Wise by increasing its understanding, wonder and appreciation for our oceans.”
The non-profit was formed in 2017 as sort of a reorganization of all the initiatives created under the Vancouver Aquarium brand. Before that date the Aquarium was its own non-profit organization. Now the Aquarium is a project of the new Ocean Wise Conservation Association, as is the Ocean Wise Seafood program which itself was an initiative of the Vancouver Aquarium beginning as far back as 2005.
It’s all a bit confusing. In short though, today Ocean Wise is a brand that oversees a number of ocean conservation programs. To learn about the one that is also a world-famous tourist attraction, see our article about the Vancouver Aquarium. To learn about how they promote sustainable fishing and aquaculture practices through their seafood recommendation program, continue reading.
Sustainably-Caught Ocean Wise Seafood
The Ocean Wise Seafood program helps prevent overfishing, habitat destruction and the use of fishing methods that lead to bycatch. (Bycatch is when a particular kind of marine life is being targeted and other species are caught unintentionally in the process. Bycatch includes fish, crabs and other sea creatures that often die wastefully in the process).
Originally an initiative of the Vancouver Aquarium, Ocean Wise Seafood is a recommendation program that verifies that seafood has been caught in an environmentally-sustainable manner. Just as there are third-party verification programs for organic and non-GMO food products, Ocean Wise is a program that helps consumers make environmentally-responsible choices regarding what they eat.
Ocean Wise Seafood is identified by the Ocean Wise symbol next to it on restaurant menus and on food product packaging. “Recommendation” (as opposed to “certification”) means that the seafood species in question is bountiful and can be replenished easily in the wild.
Recommendation also means that the product has been caught in a way that limits bycatch and doesn’t cause unnecessary damage to underwater habitats. In other cases it can also indicate that the product has been farmed in a sustainable way to minimize its impact on the environment.
Today the program has over 750 partners across the country and beyond serving Ocean Wise seafood products. This includes dozens of Lower Mainland restaurants. Some participating places serve only sustainably-caught seafood and nothing but. Others offer at least some menu items with the Ocean Wise Seafood symbol.
Ocean Wise Restaurants in Metro Vancouver
Below is a list of restaurants in the Lower Mainland that have obtained at least some of their seafood through verifiably sustainable means. There are other places too, and they also deserve recognition – we just aren’t able to feature all of them. As you’ll see, our list includes some of Vancouver’s finest and most famous dining establishments.
Our list of restaurants is based on research conducted in the spring of 2020. We examined a list of Ocean Wise partner restaurants and checked their online menus. We found lots of places that had just one or two products with the Ocean Wise symbol. Restaurants we highlight below had either most or all of their seafood products identified as recommended.
(Note: Menus change and so too do the programs and environmental initiatives that restaurants participate in. The following information was accurate as of the time of our research in March of 2020. Hopefully these restaurants will continue to serve sustainably-caught seafood, and others over time will continue to join them.)
Ocean-Friendly Restaurants in the City of Vancouver
The following restaurants are all located within the City of Vancouver, have generally great reviews and serve ocean-friendly products. For a short list of restaurants in other municipalities within the larger region of Metro Vancouver, see further below.
(Note: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic beginning in the spring of 2020, some of the restaurants in our list may be closed entirely. Others are offering only take-out and delivery services. Also, again, restaurants participating in the program at any given time are subject to change.)
- Abode Restaurant – located at 1223 Robson Street, all of the seafood items on their comfort food-style menu have been caught in a sustainable way.
- ARC Restaurant – all seafood items on the menu at their 900 Canada Place Way location in the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel are Ocean Wise recommended. They also have their own beehives to produce the honey that they use in their cooking.
- The Belgard Kitchen – located at 55 Dunlevy Avenue, almost all of their seafood items are marked as Ocean Wise.
- Black + Blue – this steakhouse has a few items on their menu that are recognized as Ocean Wise verified. They also usually take part in the annual Dine Out Vancouver Festival.
- Bodega On Main – located at 1014 Main Street and specializing in Spanish tapas, this partner restaurant’s seafood is nothing but ocean-friendly.
- Boulevard Kitchen and Oyster Bar – serving all Ocean Wise-recommended seafood, this place is in the Sutton Place Hotel at 845 Burrard Street. The restaurant is also a frequent participant in the annual Dine Out Vancouver Festival.
- Chambar – a Belgian restaurant with all OWS-verified seafood located at 568 Beatty Street.
- CinCin Ristorante and Bar – with a mostly Ocean Wise Seafood-recommended menu, this restaurant has their own cookbook so you can re-create your favourite Italian meals at home.
- Coast – located at 1054 Alberni Street, there are at least a couple of select seafood items on their menu that are Ocean Wise.
- Diva At The Met – inside the Metropolitan Hotel, this restaurant and bar features almost all OW-recommended seafood on their menu.
- Dockside Restaurant – this Granville Island restaurant takes you on a journey through the sea with waterfront views and aquariums lining the dining room. Their menu uses all local, sustainable and ocean-friendly ingredients.
- Dubh Linn – this Irish pub is located at 1601 Main Street and the majority of their seafood items are recognized as being OW recommended.
- Forage – this restaurant is dedicated to providing its customers with local and sustainable food, which includes all seafood items being Ocean Wise.
- Glowbal – located at the Telus Garden at 590 West Georgia, this funky restaurant has almost all OW-verified seafood.
2-for-1 RESTAURANT COUPONS
The Lower Mainland edition of the Entertainment Book contains dozens of valuable restaurant coupons. Not all its restaurants participate in the Ocean Wise Seafood program, but some of them do. When eating out, don’t forget your coupon book and to look out for the Ocean Wise logo in restaurant menus!
See our article about Entertainment Book Restaurants to learn about this valuable coupon program.
Other Lower Mainland Ocean Wise-Serving Restaurants
The following restaurants also have sustainable seafood items on their menus and get positive reviews:
- The Cliff House – after exploring Capilano Suspension Bridge Park in North Vancouver, go check out the Cliff House which has all Ocean Wise-recommended seafood. Note: only guests who have paid for park admission are allowed to dine here.
- Cavu Kitchen Bar – located in the Hilton Vancouver Airport Hotel in Richmond, almost all the seafood items on their menu are Ocean Wise. If you are planning on eating here, consider using a coupon from the Entertainment Coupon Book. If you use a coupon and buy one lunch or dinner entree you can likely get a second one for free.
- Fishworks – this seafood-based restaurant in the Lower Lonsdale District of North Vancouver features multiple items on their menu that are OW recommended.
- Globe @ YVR – inside the Fairmont Vancouver Airport at 3111 Grant McConachie Way in Richmond, this restaurant includes many ocean-friendly seafood options. As with other area Fairmont hotels, they are also dedicated to serving local and sustainable food.
COVID-19 AND VANCOUVER
Since the spring of 2020 the Coronavirus has been having a terrible impact on Vancouver (as well as the rest of the world). In addition to all the health-related human suffering, social isolation and macroeconomic hardships, local businesses and non-profit organizations are struggling.
As of April 2020, the Vancouver Aquarium is closed and at risk of bankruptcy due to the absence of its admission revenues and high operational costs. Looking after its facility and all its animals costs over $1 million a month! Lower Mainland restaurants are also either completely closed or allowed to provide only take-out and delivery services.
Why are we pointing this out? For a few reasons. First, we want to highlight the value of Ocean Wise. The Vancouver Aquarium is a wonderful place, but it’s far more than just a tourist attraction. It’s worth supporting because of its animals, but also because of all its many other programs
To learn how you can support the Vancouver Aquarium and Ocean Wise, visit VanAqua.org/SaveVA.
We also point out the impact of COVID-19 as some of the restaurants we include in our above lists may be closed. Some are open, and supporting them now by ordering take-out will help ensure their survival. Some restaurants, however, may never reopen, and that is terribly sad, especially when they are places that use local and sustainably-sourced products.
And finally, we point out the impact of the coronavirus because now more than ever it’s important to acknowledge the efforts of restaurants and other businesses that go above and beyond to be socially and environmentally-responsible. When companies are struggling to survive, it becomes increasingly difficult to pay extra for premium products and do what they think is right. They should continue to be encouraged and recognized, now perhaps more than ever.
Hopefully, after the world returns to normal, or as close as possible to what life was like before the pandemic, Vancouver will still be full of fabulous restaurants that use sustainably sourced ingredients. And hopefully, we’ll still have programs, non-profits and environmental initiatives that continue to make a difference. Every little bit helps!
What Seafood is Typically Ocean-Friendly?
Seafood that can be found in large quantities, reproduces abundantly and can be caught sustainably or farmed without harm to other species and the environment are good food choices.
According to Ocean Wise, species of fish that are often ocean-friendly include farmed Arctic char, wild pickerel from the Great Lakes, Pacific halibut, BC-caught albacore tuna, and Pacific cod. Sablefish and lake white fish are also generally found in healthy numbers, and trap-caught BC spot prawns are a good choice too.
Also according to Ocean Wise, sustainably-caught or farmed clams, mussels, oysters and scallops are also usually good choices, as are snow crabs and closed-system or Ontario-farmed rainbow trout.
For more information about the above fish and other facts see the Ocean Wise Seafood Guide.
To learn more about the Vancouver-based sustainable seafood recommendation program see the Ocean Wise Seafood website.
For a map of where you can find ocean-friendly products, click Ocean Wise Partner Locations.
To learn about how Ocean Wise grades different fishing practices, click Ocean Wise Seafood Guidelines.
In addition to running the Vancouver Aquarium and the seafood recommendation program, Ocean Wise also runs educational programs, conducts research, organizes Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanups every year, and undertakes marine mammal rescue operations.
To learn more click Work of Ocean Wise Vancouver.
Community Supported Fisheries
If eating socially and environmentally-responsible seafood is important to you (which we hope it is), and you value locally-sourced food, another kind of organization you might be interested in are Community Supported Fisheries (CSFs).
(Note: Ocean Wise isn’t a Community Supported Fishery. It’s totally different. We are simply telling you about them as the topic is related.)
A CSF is an organization, a bit like a cooperative (but it doesn’t have to be one), where members receive periodic shares of locally-sourced seafood.
With a CSF, members pre-purchase “shares” or a percentage of catches which are delivered on a regular basis (e.g., once per week). The model supports local independent fishermen/women and promotes a kind of “fair trade” at the local level.
An example of a local Community Supported Fishery is Skipper Otto which is a family-run operation in the City of Vancouver. Their fishing partners are hardworking folk based out of Metro Vancouver, Vancouver Island and the Gulf Islands. A minimum suggested share with the organization is about $300.
With Skipper Otto, their members spend down their pre-purchased credits on whatever seafood items they want whenever they like throughout the year. Their sign-up season also usually finishes around the end of May, but then starts back up again in mid-autumn.
To learn more about CSFs, see the Skipper Otto website.
Other articles you might find of interest include the following:
- Vancouver Farmers Markets
- Vancouver’s Best Restaurants
- Dine Out Vancouver Festival
- Vancouver Aquarium
- Vancouver’s Top Attractions