Gay Globe Trekker

Under the Sea

Coming Up: Marriott casts a line into the complicated waters of sustainable seafood.

Road warriors with sophisticated palates—accustomed to enjoying organic food at their local farmers’ markets—are increasingly demanding more from their food experience while traveling.  It’s no longer smaller properties like Jake’s in Jamaica or Rosewood Little Dix Bay that are catering to this trend—both of them featured in my recent Bon Appétit story.  Now, industry giant Marriott International is betting big while baiting a hook for its FutureFish program.

Marriott's Chef Nelson at work

“People who shop at Whole Foods want to find the same types of products in our hotels,” Brad Nelson, Marriott culinary VP and corporate chef told USA Today in announcing the company’s new goal to source at least 50% of their seafood from certified sustainable fisheries.  The FutureFish program will apply across all the brands Marriott operates including JW Marriott, Renaissance and Ritz-Carlton.  And while the program may not sound particularly new or innovative—other companies like Fairmont were early leaders in this area—the fact that Marriott has such an enormous global footprint makes this big news.  It’s the travel industry’s version of Wal-Mart saying they are selling more organics.

Sustainable seafood at Whole Foods

On Nelson’s corporate blog—which is pretty cool and I encourage you to check out—he talks through some of the important issues surrounding this decision.  First and foremost is the sheer amount of fish that Marriott serves.  Nelson estimates nearly 400,000 fish per year, and that over 40% of menu sales come from fish and seafood—a number that continues to grow.

As part of the FutureFish program, in each region of the world in which Marriott operates, they’ve created sustainability rankings of popular species.  Then they are working with local organizations and suppliers to ensure that the fish winding up on the plate are the most sustainable possible.

Some have already attacked Marriott for supporting farm fisheries that they say are just as detrimental to the environment—and our health.  To help on that front, Marriott is working with a San Francisco-based group called Clean Fish.  They advise fish farms and wild fisheries on how to manage their operations in eco-conscious ways.  They will help Marriott chefs connect to sustainable distributors in their area.

Since Marriott was a recipient of one of the first Condé Nast Traveler World Savers Awards that I worked on back in 2007, I have always been a fan of their social responsibility programs—especially around energy efficiency.  Now, I’m poptimistic they’re fishing efforts are going to pay off in big ways for all of us.

Next on Green Globe Trekker: travelers cultivating crops for themselves

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