When Sustainable Fishing Trumps Great Food

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NOTE: Lot 30 is now closed.

Charlottetown, Canada

This is a really difficult post to write.

Generally I believe that if you don’t have anything nice to say you shouldn’t say anything. In this case I’m not writing to be malicious but to share a conflict in values.

I’ve been on Prince Edward Island for a few days now in an attempt to see as much time as I can outside working. From a food perspective, Charlottetown has really surprised me.

There are some great modern options and the island that boasts it produces Canada’s best ice cream no longer needs to rely on that for culinary credentials.

After my cooking boot camp learning how to put a lobster to sleep,  Chef Ilona Daniel recommended Terre Rouge and there Chef Dave Mottershall told me the best chef on the island was Chef Gordon Bailey at Lot 30.

And so last night I went and had fantastic food. The restaurant front of house is run by the chef’s wife, Traci, who is incredibly nice and so down to earth.

After the meal I asked if I could take a photo of the chef in the kitchen and everyone was happy to oblige.

And because of this I’m so disappointed at what happened next.

After a quick chat he asked me if I wanted to capture his philosophy for the restaurant on video.


This is where it gets really bad.


Have a look.



I wasn’t struck by his disdain for helping diners connect the meal on their table to farmers on the island.  What disturbed me was that he was proud to serve bluefin tuna.

Bluefin tuna is not recommended by Ocean Wise. When I asked him about it he said that it is heavily regulated and his suppliers have licenses, which I am sure is true.

But bluefin tuna has been severely overfished driving critically low numbers. Despite it being delicious many people (including many chefs) believe there should be a moratorium.

And while he referenced “PEI bluefin” this species is migratory, ambitiously so and are known to travel from North America to Europe multiple times a year.

Sustainable fish choices are complicated. Even within tuna some types are more sustainable than others so I often recommend using either the Ocean Wise iPhone app or the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch App which is available in Android.

I try to support restaurants that have share my food values and I spend a lot of time reading about food. 

But most people don’t and this is where I think chefs come in because most people ordering bluefin tuna from the menu likely don’t realize it’s unsustainable.

I didn’t enter a debate with Chef Gordon. He was very kind to me and it’s not for me to question his ethics when I’m a guest in his kitchen.


But it has left me uneasy. 


Here is a restaurant with fantastic staff and delicious food but ultimately I believe we create the world we want by making choices with our pocketbook.

Lot 30 does not need to confirm to my ideals. It’s their kitchen they can do what they like with it.  

If we hadn’t had the conversation I would have recommended Lot 30 with gusto but now as great as the food is. I can never eat there again knowing I’m supporting a business contrary to my own values.

And with PEI having so many fantastic seafood options I think back to the last portion of the video where he says:

…challenge ourselves to make like the best that we can from what we’re offered.

The best of what we’re offered is not unsustainable fish. Prince Edward Island is much better than that.



Join the Conversation

  1. I’m so glad you brought this up. I’m constantly baffled by well-educated chefs who choose to serve blue fin. It’s just as bad a serving up panda in my book.

  2. For a number of reasons I don’t eat seafood, and DO do my best to support and talk about local farmers.

    One would indeed expect better from a restauranteur. Canada’s east coast fisherman participated in overfishing to near extinction of pretty much anything that swims off the east coast. That same attitude clearly lives on in this chef who will happily participate in the decline of yet another fish species.

    Between overfishing and pollution the oceans are dying. That’s reason enough to hype local farms and farmers rather than dismiss their significance.

  3. I could definitely feeling your struggle with this post. It must have been a great disappointment for you to have experienced something so positive and then so negative all at once.

  4. But, if the people come, it will continue to be served… It will only stop when the people stop.

  5. Well, this is an eyeopener! Thanks for bringing this up!

  6. TammyOnTheMove says:

    I am not a vegetarian. I am a flexotarian, which means I eat meat occasionally if it is organic and free range. The same goes for fish. I would never eat whale meat or tuna as they are endangered species. Sadly a lot of the time you just don’t know where your food is coming from. In Europe all packaging is labelled and there are strict guidelines on this, but I currently live in Asia, so I never really know where my food comes from. That’s why I mostly stick to vegetarian food over here.

  7. Paul Fowler says:

    You may feel uncomfortable writing about this, but it’s good that you do because it’s a debate that needs to be had, and something people need to be aware of.

    A good, balanced piece. Thanks!

  8. Stephanie - The Travel Chica says:

    Always appreciate honesty.

    If someone wants to be educated on this issue, it is great for them to be able to find this post and know. If it is not a priority for them (really there are many issues and only so many we can choose to learn about), they will enjoy their meal.

  9. Mary @ Fit and Fed says:

    Thank you, Ayngelina. I do care about sustainable seafood, it’s good to know about those iPhone apps and I will try to pass that info on. I see more and more bloggers writing about sustainable seafood and it’s a great trend. I also worry a lot about ocean acidification (from global warming) which could severely damage the ocean ecosystem. And meat-eating in general is a great contributor to global warming. I don’t buy a whole lot of seafood, we are mainly vegetarian, but I do buy some Alaska seafood since I know that fishery is sustainably managed. Last summer I bought ahi tuna from Fiji on special and then almost had a conniption when I realized I had not checked first to see if it is sustainable. Thankfully, it is longline yellowfin tuna and it is sustainable.

  10. Travel Origins says:

    Wow. Great information. It is really good to know about the apps!

  11. It’s a tough one. I can see how you were happy and then umm….not so. People have to be informed surely but we definitely known that patrons don’t realize they would be contributing to the decline of the bluefin or other fish. I think that is a bit of a cop out to claim since the fishermen have licenses so it’s ok.

  12. Wonderful post! Great information. It is very nice to know about the apps!

  13. Thanks for writing this thoughtful article. It shares valuable information about overfishing and what individuals can do to combat it, as well as giving another perspective to my own experience with tuna fishing on PEI.

    My parents are seasonal residents, and a couple of summers ago, I had the opportunity to witness a local fishing crew hauling a tuna in at the nearby dock. It was an event – four generations of the fishermen’s family came to watch. As they pulled the tuna out of the water, I realized how insanely large these fish are – the size of a cow, literally. After being photographed with various family members, weighed, and cut up, it was immediately put on ice in an enormous plastic container, ready to be shipped off (probably to Japan, where ~80% of bluefin tuna is consumed). The whole ordeal probably took half an hour, at most.

    As I understand it, each licensed fisherman is allowed to catch only one tuna per season. Depending on the market price, one fish can supply between a month’s and a year’s salary. As reprehensible as it may seem, I can kind of understand why a local chef would show pride in being able to offer a catch that many island fishermen depend on for their livelihood, but rarely finds its way to local tables.

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