From Thomas Keller’s French Laundry in Napa Valley to Eric Ripert’s Le Bernardin in New York City, to Andrew Johnston’s taquería The Little Chihuahua in San Francisco, chefs around the country are singing the praises of CleanFish, a company committed to promoting great tasting, sustainably produced, authentic artisan seafood.
Formed in 2004 by founders Tim O’Shea and Dale Sims, the company connects small-scale fish suppliers with distributors to get sustainable seafood to restaurant kitchens and supermarkets, in an effort build a market for sustainable aquaculture and wild fishing that doesn’t damage the environment. But praises from chefs and the culinary world are not all.
CleanFish has also gotten a nod from the business world, as well. In May 2009, BusinessWeek named listed them as one of the “Most Promising Social Entrepreneurs”. And TIME magazine called them “Responsibility Pioneer” and one of 25 companies “big and small old and new…changing the world”. It is a company that is doing well by doing good.
How Clean Fish Operates
Clean Fish co-founder and CEO Tim O’Shea describes large-scale commercial fishing as “Hoovering up ecosystems.” I take this as a commentary on our over-fished and over-harvested oceans. O’Shea’s operation has four full-time “Clean Fish evangelists” among his 30-strong staff, separate from his sales force, who work to educate chefs and consumers about how they source their fish. The company’s suppliers—24 artisan fish producers they call the Clean Fish Alliance—have already been able to expand because Clean Fish increased the market for their seafood. The company’s revenue has been doubling each year for three years, and CleanFish expects to top $20 million in 2009.
It’s Not Just Restaurants, It’s The Environment
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), humans are responsible for:
Removing about 8% of the total primary production of the aquatic ecosystem each year.
Harvesting and consuming more than one fourth of the annual fish production of ocean upwelling regions and tropical marine shelves.
Removing about 35% of temperate shelf region productivity.
Over harvesting to this extent can greatly affect the biodiversity of many important aquatic ecosystems and local industry and the economy.
Overharvesting to this extent can greatly affect the biodiversity of many important aquatic ecosystems and local industry and the economy.
Clean Fish’s ethos is based on the ideal of a marketplace that rewards human-scale fisheries where wild fish are harvested responsibly. They believe this demands conscious restraint appropriate from fishermen who know over-harvesting for this year’s market will only hurt the viability of fish stocks in the future. And their belief system is being embraced by top chefs and the business world alike.
The next time you are going out to dinner or getting fish from your local grocery store, check to see if it is Clean Fish.