Meet the Experts: Kim Thompson of Seafood for the Future
We’re delighted to welcome Kim Thompson as a regular contributor and Menuism sustainable seafood expert! Get to know Kim a little bit better below, see the guest post she wrote last month for National Seafood Month, and watch out for her future articles in this space. Her first contribution on Bristol Bay salmon will post tomorrow morning. Please help us welcome Kim in the comments! – KK
What is the Seafood for the Future program?
Seafood for the Future (SFF) is a nonprofit seafood advisory program at the Aquarium of the Pacific in Long Beach, California. Working with a network of partner chefs, distributors, fishermen, responsible aquaculture producers, and community groups, we promote healthy and responsible seafood choices in Southern California. SFF is different from other seafood advisory programs in that we work to educate and promote responsible sourcing from within the industry so the consumer can feel confident in supporting SFF partner establishments for their efforts to source responsibly.
How did you come to be involved as the program’s coordinator?
I’ve always been passionate about conservation. About 10 years ago, I started to learn more about our food systems, particularly factory farms, and decided to become a vegetarian. Unfortunately, I was never a good vegetarian and was lacking protein and iron. While searching for alternatives that would still allow me to sleep at night, I stumbled across the idea of sustainable seafood. The more I learned, the more fascinated I became and eventually I became a pescatarian. While working on my degree in environmental science and policy at California State University, Long Beach, I was later awarded an internship position in government relations at the Aquarium of the Pacific. When Seafood for the Future was launched in 2009, I immediately volunteered my services and eventually landed an internship with the program. Earlier this year, my dedication and experience had paid off and I was awarded the position of program manager.
What would you like people to know about sustainable seafood?
Eat more of the right types of seafood! The American Heart Association recommends that we eat 2-3 servings of seafood per week, yet the average American eats less than 1 serving per week. Seafood is the healthiest protein choice for our bodies and our planet so long as we choose wisely. Choosing seafood from well-managed wild-capture and responsible aquaculture producers can also help mitigate the harmful effects of terrestrial agriculture by creating a balanced demand for protein from the sea and land. There are some seafood selections that are high in mercury and should be consumed sparingly by all and avoided by pregnant women and children under 12 years of age, but the amount of available seafood that is low in mercury exceeds the amount of those high in mercury. Overall, the benefits of eating more of the right types of seafood far outweighs the risks.
What are some of your favorite ways to enjoy seafood?
I like to experiment with some of the lesser-known local selections. SFF partner fisherman Stephanie Mutz created an uni (sea urchin) pizza that is delightful! I’m also a big fan of local spot prawns. Throw them in some foil with garlic, butter, parsley, and some chili flake and grill for about 8-10 minutes and you have a little bit of heaven.
Are there certain kinds of seafood you think should be avoided?
This is a tough one because there are a lot of gray areas where the answer would be ‘don’t eat this, but,” or “except when.” Some countries have better management than others, but even in those with poor management, there are fisheries certified by internationally recognized organizations such as the Marine Stewardship Council. Without going through a lengthy and very specific list, the best advice I can give to consumers is to look for seafood from well-managed and/or certified sources. The best way to do that here in the US is simply to choose local. US seafood is among the best managed in the world. Some are better managed than others, but overall, domestic seafood is a responsible choice. Choosing local seafood is good for the health of the environment and our coastal communities.
When you’re not thinking about sustainable seafood, what are you thinking about?
Is there anything else? When I’m not thinking about seafood, I’m thinking about sea turtles and Mediterranean food. I have a side project serving as a co-principal on an upcoming sea turtle monitoring project here in Long Beach, California. We will be working with citizen scientists to determine the size of and areas most frequented by the green sea turtle population in the San Gabriel River. If I’m not researching turtles or consuming seafood for “research” purposes at work, I take any chance I get to enjoy Mediterranean food with a glass of wine and good friends.
Welcome onboard, Kim!