Seafood Month is a time to celebrate sustainable seafood for both wild-caught and farmed species. The United States is a global leader in sustainable seafood, underscoring NOAA Fisheries’ strong commitment to building a resilient seafood sector. This would not be possible without our many partners throughout the country and the world.
We sat down with Jhana Young, sustainable seafood manager at Conservation International Hawaiʻi, one of our important partners. Jhana shares CI Hawaiʻi’s sustainable seafood vision, what Seafood Month means to her, the exciting events CI Hawaiʻi is holding throughout the month, and more.
What kind of work does Conservation International do in Hawaiʻi?
Conservation International's Hawaiʻi program started in 2011 as our only U.S.-based field program. We are part of a global team that works in more than 30 countries to empower societies to responsibly and sustainably care for nature, our global biodiversity, and for the well-being of humanity. Our focus in Hawaiʻi involves working with a diversity of partners across the state to underscore the importance of food security and to support sustainability in our fisheries and seafood industry.
We have three pillars or areas of work:
- Helping fishing communities like Miloliʻi in South Kona on marine monitoring practices
- Working with government partners in ocean policy
- Collaborating with our seafood industry and culinary community to uplift sustainable seafood practices
With those three pillars as the foundation, our overarching goal is ocean conservation and shifting people’s perspectives towards valuing our important seafood and fishery resources.
What does Seafood Month mean to you?
Growing up here in Hawaiʻi, I learned how to fish from my dad and to love seafood like many other local families. So for me, this is an opportunity to not only share the spirit of National Seafood Month, but also share that love of seafood and sustainability from a Hawaiʻi perspective. Our dinner series represents how we as a community work together continuously to make sure that our fisheries are sustainable for future generations.
I think that's what's special about this month—being able to share these stories of our heritage and our connection to the ocean, our fisheries, and seafood with a broader audience.
My personal goal is to teach people more about where their seafood comes from and why it's important to know who you are supporting. It's really inspiring to me to see people come away from our events saying, “Wow, I didn't know the story of why this fish is sustainable or important to our culture.”
How does Conservation International celebrate Seafood Month in Hawaiʻi?
We've been hosting our Seafood Month events with our nonprofit partner Chef Hui since 2015, and we have themes each year. In 2015, we focused on seafood traceability, where we debuted a seafood technology partner program. We were able to put QR codes in 50 restaurants and businesses throughout the state of Hawaiʻi. Consumers could scan the QR code and know exactly where that fish was coming from, who caught it, and why it’s sustainable.
So from that, a lot of people were really wanting to see more of these events where they could enjoy delicious, chef-created local seafood dishes. They could also learn a little bit more about the sustainability aspect of fisheries and how the industry and partners come together to work on these issues.
Over the last 2 years, we were funded by a NOAA Fisheries Saltonstall-Kennedy grant to promote a market for the invasive fish taʻape (blue-stripe snapper), so that was our Seafood Month theme.
What is Conservation International’s 2023 Seafood Month theme?
This year, our theme is focused on honoring the whole fish and promoting zero-waste seafood practices. Weʻve been working with fishermen, distributors, and our Sustainable Seafood Council of Chefs to elevate different culinary approaches to zero-waste seafood. It's in this concept and philosophy that we're instilling, sharing with, and inspiring others to use the whole fish.
Many people aren’t familiar with head-to-tail cooking and are most familiar with only eating the filets. Our goal with our partner chefs is to showcase all the unique parts of the fish, such as the eyes, cheeks, bloodline, bones, and tails. We want to expose people to the idea that eating seafood and respecting our fishery resources includes being able to enjoy and utilize each fish to its fullest.
How is Conservation International celebrating Seafood Month 2023?
We’re holding three dinners in collaboration with Chef Hui and our Sustainable Seafood Council of Chefs. Our partnering chefs will be creating one-of-a-kind menus that utilize nearly all parts of the fish, especially the ones that typically get discarded. For example, ʻahi bone marrow, ʻahi tails, skin, smoked bloodline, and head cheese are just some of the menu items that will be featured during our Seafood Month dinner series. This is part of our Saltonstall-Kennedy grant project.
On October 11, Chef Ed Kenney will be presenting a four-course meal at his restaurant Mud Hen Water in Honolulu. He'll be featuring a suite of really exciting menu items that range from heʻe (octopus) ink to kanpachi (longfin yellowtail) head to ‘ahi (tuna) marrow and tails.
On October 15 at Nami Kaze in Honolulu, Chef Jason Peel is offering an eight-course tasting menu featuring Kona kanpachi, ‘ahi, and aholehole (Hawaiian flagtail). He is fully utilizing the fish with menu items including fish head, eye, and bloodline.
The third dinner will be on October 24 at Tiffany’s in Wailuku, Maui. We are looking forward to hosting this event with Chef Sheldon Simeon and will be inviting many of our community leaders who have been supporting the Maui wildfire relief efforts.
As part of these dinners, the chefs will be coming out and sharing the story of what inspired them when they created their dishes. My overall goal with this project is to get people to think out of the box in terms of what we can do with local seafood. We want people to experience something different and unique and maybe discover a new flavor or texture. And to not be afraid of ordering something different that utilizes all parts of the fish because it’s ultimately consumers who would be driving the demand for this menu.
Since our theme is respecting the whole fish and using our fishery resources to its fullest, we will also have some fish leather products, and education and outreach materials at these dinners. People will be able to feel what it’s like to have fish leather in their hands.
How can people learn more about and take part in the Seafood Month dinners?
You can visit the Chef Hui website for more information about the dinners and to see the menus. We will have links to purchase tickets to the dinners on this website.
Is there anything else you would like to share?
We're trying to create these experiences for people to think about how we can innovate as a community. We want people to know that everyone plays a role in our seafood community.
Wherever you live—whether it's Hawaiʻi, another place in the Pacific, or somewhere else around the world—being educated about the current events and what's going on in our fisheries is really important. It’s the first step to becoming more connected to the place you live because the ocean and fisheries are so important to all of us, especially those who live near the ocean.
Everyone has the power to be educated about their choices—to connect with and support local fishermen who source the fish or ask businesses and chefs about their seafood. If everyone does that, imagine the positive implications for our seafood industry!
The NOAA Fisheries Saltonstall-Kennedy National Program is a yearly grant competition that funds projects leading to the promotion, development, and marketing of U.S. fisheries. Learn more about funded projects in the Pacific Islands region in our annual reports.