Ocean Wise Seafood is a Vancouver-based program that protects the environment and encourages restaurants and businesses to serve sustainably-caught seafood.
The Canada-wide initiative also has participating businesses in as many as ten other countries.
In this article you’ll learn about the Ocean Wise Seafood program and local restaurants that serve ocean-friendly and sustainably-farmed fish. 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 began 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, along with the Ocean Wise Seafood program, is a project of the new Ocean Wise Conservation Association. The Ocean Wise Seafood program was also 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 species is caught unintentionally while trying to catch a different type of marine life. 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. The program verifies that seafood has been caught in an environmentally-sustainable manner. It’s similar to 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 has 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 replenished easily in the wild.
Recommendation also means that the product was caught in a way that limits bycatch and doesn’t cause unnecessary damage to underwater habitats. In other cases it can also indicate sustainable farming and a minimal 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. Meanwhile, 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. However, our list includes some of Vancouver’s finest and most famous dining establishments.
We conducted our research in the spring of 2020 by examining a list of Ocean Wise partner restaurants. We checked their online menus and 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 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: Our list of participating restaurants is subject to change.)
Restaurants in Vancouver’s Downtown Core
- 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.
- 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 Robson Street restaurant has their own cookbook so you can re-create your favourite Italian meals at home.
- Diva At The Met – inside the Metropolitan Hotel, this restaurant and bar features almost all OW-recommended seafood on their menu.
- Forage – located at 1300 Robson Street beside the Listel Hotel, this restaurant serves customers with local and sustainable food. All seafood items are Ocean Wise.
- H2 Kitchen + Bar – a really nice smokehouse and rotisserie-style restaurant specializing in barbecued meats at the Westin Bayshore Hotel at 1601 Bayshore Drive in Coal Harbour.
Restaurants Outside Vancouver’s Downtown Core
- Bodega On Main – located at 1014 Main Street and specializing in Spanish tapas, this partner restaurant’s seafood is nothing but ocean-friendly.
- Dockside Restaurant – this Granville Island restaurant takes you on a journey through the sea. There are waterfront views and aquariums lining the dining room. Their menu uses all local, sustainable and ocean-friendly ingredients.
- The Teahouse Restaurant – a famous restaurant near Third Beach in Stanley Park. It serves seafood and other West Coast cuisine.
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 plan 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.
- 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 serve local and sustainable food.
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 and wild pickerel from the Great Lakes. Other species include 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. Others include 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 other educational programs. Furthermore, Ocean Wise 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
Is eating socially and environmentally-responsible seafood important to you? If it is, and you value locally-sourced food, another kind of organization to look into 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 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 their pre-purchased credits on whatever seafood 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