International Year of the Salmon

Chef Ned Bell, an eco-sustainable revolutionary when it comes to fish farming

A chef’s moral responsibility to the world is to respect people and cultures while teaching about food-sustainability. 

Before there were celebrity chefs in Vancouver there were chefs Ned Bell, Rob Feenie and Michael Jacob, the chefs that put Vancouver’s restaurant scene on the map with Lumiere, the multi-awarded Vancouver restaurant. Before Lumiere there was Le Crocodile – thirty years later Le Crocodile still remains one of the city’s most acclaimed and visited restaurants.

If there is one driving force that defines Ned Bell it would be his passion for creating globally inspired dishes using local, sustainable seafood.

Ned Bell is a longtime sustainable-seafood ambassador, the Ocean Wise executive chef based at the Vancouver Aquarium, co-author of Lure: Sustainable Seafood Recipes from the West Coast, and founder of Chefs for Oceans, which raises awareness about sustainable seafood.

Our customers look to us for knowledge and choose our food because they expect that we’ve done our homework,” is the strong message chef Ned Bell has sent to chefs locally and globally.

He continued, “I encourage my chef colleagues to visit a fish farm, meet with the farmers and learn about how the fish are raised.”

To make the information digestible, Chef Ned Bell would like to educate his friends and co-chefs on the importance of sustainable seafood:

  1. If our growing population wants to keep eating fish (and I certainly want to) the future is farming. I know that’s a massive statement to uncover and understand, but it’s one we need to fully appreciate before we form our opinion or perceived opinion. Yes, there are challenges, yes there are risks, but the good of farming fish far outweighs the bad of the past.

“When it comes to the fish we eat, global wild-capture fisheries have been at, or unfortunately above, sustainable levels for the past 30 years. Today, fish we catch in the ocean makes up less than half of the seafood we eat, the majority comes from farms. Yes, farmed fish, but I’m fearful that we only see farmed fish as a four-letter word”, said Chef Bell in an article published by the Vancouver Sun.

 Oceans’ Guardians

“As a chef, I look to transparent, science-based standards for guidance and education.”

We have to remember, globally, the sustainable seafood movement is only two decades old:

  1. In 1997, the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) was formed through leadership of the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and pioneered the development of a rigorous science-based standard for environmentally responsible and sustainable fishing.
  2. In 2005, Ocean Wise was created using the science and marine biology behind the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program, filtering that science through a Canadian lens and recommending the best choices.
  3. Today, more than 400 fisheries around the world, landing nearly 12 million tonnes of seafood annually, are engaged with the MSC — but that’s still only 14 per cent of the global, wild-marine catch. It’s only been since 2012 that the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) — also developed through WWF leadership — standard has been available to farmers.

As in wild-capture fisheries, there are and have been significant challenges with aquaculture. But through education and awareness we have challenged our fishermen to improve, and they have. Through organizations like Seafood Watch, the ASC and Ocean Wise we have also challenged aquaculture, and today over 600 farms are certified to ASC, and many producers are meeting the Seafood Watch “good-alternative” bar.

Improvements have been made, but we can do more. And we must do more, because responsible aquaculture is crucial for our future.

“By ensuring we put the ecosystem first, we can care for the fish we grow and, in turn, feed and nourish ourselves.”

Responsible aquaculture is needed, we need to utilize our oceans, continually develop and improve technology, including land-based farming, review sitting requirements, what species of fish we grow and research innovative feed solutions, and most importantly understand what the health of a fish means and the ethics involved.

We have done some incredible work over a relatively short period of time creating awareness and advocacy for responsible, traceable and sustainable seafood, but we have barely scratched the surface. We need to dive deeper to better understand the challenges, the opportunities, and continue to create the road map to get us to a place where we are supporting healthy communities and consuming wild and farmed fish.


The only way we can continue to consume seafood with any sense of sustainability is to only consume seafood that is responsibly farmed, responsibly harvested and maybe most importantly, understood.

For the full article by Chef Ned Bell, go here.

Related Links:

‘Sea lies’ plague fish farmers in Nova Scotia

Conservation groups support sustainable aquaculture