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Mediterranean fish species bronzini and orata are brought to Wegmans Food Markets within 24 hours of harvest, as a result of a new partnership the Rochester, N.Y.-based grocery chain has formed with Local Ocean. The New York-based company has pioneered environmentally sensitive ways to raise premium fish while conserving water, minimizing waste and reducing fuel dependence. Available year-round, the two types of fish offer sweet, semi-firm white meat with a flavor similar to that of red snapper.
Local Ocean’s bronzini and orata are raised in buildings on farmland near Albany, N.Y. Within is a completely enclosed ecosystem, where pure saltwater circulates constantly through filters that trap waste. Beneficial bacteria in the filters and hydroponically grown plants consume the waste, so there’s none to dispose of.
“It’s a big win for our customers and for the environment, every way you look at it,” said Carl Salamone, VP of seafood at Wegmans, of the program. “These fish are absolutely delicious. We can harvest them without depleting ocean fish populations, and the indoor ecosystem in which they grow is a model of environmental sustainability. And because they’re raised in the U.S. within a few hours from most Wegmans stores, less fuel is needed to bring the fish to market than when ordering from overseas.” Other farmed species sold at Wegmans include shrimp, salmon, tilapia, catfish, rainbow trout, clams and oysters.
An additional advantage to the Local Ocean partnership, according to Salamone, is that more Wegmans seafood employees can visit the facility in person to deepen their understanding of how the fish are produced, and what solutions aquaculture can offer to feed the planet.
Wegmans’ other sustainable aquaculture endeavors include working with the Environmental Defense Fund and Marine Harvest, a major producer of farmed salmon, in 2005 to set new standards to reduce or eliminate environmental problems associated with farmed king salmon, and teaming up with fish farms in Canada, Thailand and South America to supply much of the seafood it sells.
Family-owned Wegmans operates 78 stores in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Virginia, and Maryland, with a Northborough, Mass., location -- its first in New England -- set to open this month.