A 2006 article in Science Magazine predicted that if humans continue to fish at the same rates with the same practices, all the world's fisheries will collapse by 2048. As a response to such concerns, Cornell is buying more sustainable seafood.
This month, Cornell became the first Ivy League school to be certified by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) for its use of sustainable seafood in its dining halls.
To start with, the Robert Purcell Marketplace Eatery and the Keeton House Dining Room, both all-you-can-eat facilities, will serve sustainably certified seafood; Cornell Dining plans to expand the program to all campus dining outlets by 2015.
"We have to bite [at this project] one bite at a time," said Steven Miller, senior executive chef for Cornell Dining.
To meet MSC certification standards, seafood must come from sustainable fisheries, which have low impacts on marine ecosystems, and MSC-certified processors and distributors. Cornell acquires its seafood from many outlets, including Binghamton's Maines Paper and Food Service, which was MSC certified in January. While some of its vendors are not sustainably certified, Cornell Dining is establishing new partnerships with sustainable seafood vendors all over the East Coast.
Sustainable seafood is slightly more expensive, so the all-you-can-eat dining halls will serve smaller portions.
Cornell's decision to become MSC certified "means we are making a commitment to make sure seafood is available for our children and grandchildren by knowing how fish are caught and handled and treated," said Gail Finan '69, director of Cornell's Dining and Retail Services.
To comply with certification, Cornell must maintain records of where fish are purchased, how they are cooked and how much is left over. Each year MSC will audit Cornell. "Everything we do has to be transparent," said Finan.
One way to fish sustainably is to catch species that have large ocean populations, such as barramundi and swai, both white-fleshed fish. Cornell Dining has had to adapt their practices to more widely use these less traditional fish.
Cornell Dining is committed to instituting sustainable practices. In addition to being MSC certified, 20 percent of the food Cornell Dining uses is locally grown and some 515 tons of food scraps and organic waste are composted annually, for example.