#SOSforBiodiversity by Relais & Châteaux and Ethic Ocean for Marine Conservation

Relais & Châteaux and Ethic Ocean launched #SOSforBiodiversity to raise awareness about overexploited seafood, like eel, and focus on sustainable options. (Photo by Natalia Gusakova on Unsplash)

Since 2009, Relais & Châteaux has been dedicated to protecting marine resources in collaboration with Ethic Ocean. This year, they renewed their commitment by launching an awareness campaign to eliminate overexploited seafood species from their menus, starting with eel and prioritizing sustainable options. On June 8th, for the ninth year in a row, Relais & Châteaux will honour World Oceans Day with the initiative #SOSforBiodiversity.

The eel, a delicacy particularly in East Asia, is facing a dire situation. Decades of overfishing have led to a dramatic decline in their population. The Japanese eel population, in particular, has plummeted by a staggering 90 to 95%. Eels, unique among marine life, undergo a rare metamorphosis and cannot reproduce in captivity. Spending most of their lives in freshwater, they embark on an extraordinary 4,000-mile journey to the deep ocean’s precise breeding grounds: the Sargasso Sea or near Guam. After breeding, eels die, leaving their tiny two-gram offspring to drift back to freshwater habitats with ocean currents. This urgent situation calls for immediate action to protect these fascinating creatures.

These young eels are then captured and raised in controlled environments until adulthood, a practice that has contributed to their endangered status.

#SOSforBiodiversity: Chefs Who Set the Tone

To complement Ethic Ocean’s #EelNoThankYou campaign, #SOSforBiodiversity has been initiated. In late 2023, Relais & Châteaux rallied its chefs worldwide to address the urgent need to protect endangered eel species.

David Toutain of Relais & Châteaux Restaurant David Toutain (Paris, France)
  • Pedro Subijana of Relais & Châteaux Akelarre (San Sebastian, Spain) and an elected member of Relais & Châteaux’s World Culinary Council: “Typical Spanish dishes–such as those with elvers (juvenile eel) –are very important to our culture and heritage. But responsibility must go hand-in-hand with tradition. We must all pause serving and eating eel now to preserve it for future generations.”
  • Vicky Lau of Relais & Châteaux Tate Dining Room (Hong Kong) and an elected member of Relais & Châteaux’s World Culinary Council: “Many people think farmed eel is different from wild eel, when, in fact, wild juvenile eels are caught and then taken to be grown on farms. With the critical status of eels all over the world, this form of aquaculture can’t be considered sustainable.”
  • David Toutain of Relais & Châteaux Restaurant David Toutain (Paris, France): “Our iconic dish has been eel since we opened the restaurant in 2013, but now we’ve replaced it with smoked herring. Fishing and all other causes of the European eel’s decline are issues that we need to be aware of in order to take action.”
  • Michael Cimarusti of Relais & Châteaux Providence (Los Angeles, California, USA): “Eel is something that we have had on the menu from time to time at Providence but being a member of Relais & Châteaux and understanding the importance of protecting any species that’s endangered, we signed the pledge and decided to stop serving eel. Wild harvested eels are red listed pretty much all over the world.”

Beyond Eel, the Goal to Ban all Red-Listed Species

This movement embodies a profound commitment to sustainable practices and preserving vital species, ensuring culinary traditions can continue to thrive without compromising future biodiversity.

The statistics are alarming: 35.4% of marine resources are overfished; illegal fishing accounts for 20% of the global catch (between 11 and 26 million tons annually); and 35% of the world’s catch is discarded and released, often leading to the needless death of marine life without consumption.

In collaboration with Ethic Ocean, Relais & Châteaux enables its chefs to ensure their chosen species are sourced responsibly. This dedication to sustainable seafood extends beyond eel, encompassing all wild and farmed aquatic species.

Categories: World
Manuel Santos: Manuel, an author for Argophilia Travel News, hails from Barcelona. He started off as a lifeguard at Sant Sebastia Beach and later worked as a barista. Currently, he is a travel writer who is considering writing a book about the surf beaches in Spain.
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