Seeking to expand sustainable travel and tourism, Friends of Haystack Rock has created a local program with the Oregon Travel Philanthropy Fund of Travel Oregon.

Dubbed the “Sustainable Seafood Invitation,” its aim is to encourage people to make healthy seafood choices.

The project is a landmark for the Oregon Coast, spearheaded by two organizations with mission statements centering on environmental stewardship.

Friends of Haystack Rock promotes the preservation and protection of the marine life and habitat around Haystack Rock. It raises funds for the Haystack Rock Awareness Program.

The Oregon Travel Philanthropy Fund encourages projects that bolster the tourism economy, improve the natural environment and support local culture.

Jeremy Sampson, of the Oregon Travel Philanthropy Fund, said the fund “gives people the chance to stay connected to a relevant and compelling experience from a place they’ve travelled to.”

The Friends of Haystack Rock was awarded a $2,000 grant for the Oregon Coast region.

“The Sustainable Seafood Invitation will connect people to Haystack Rock,” Sampson said.

Haystack Rock Awareness Program will use the grant to educate visitors on how to make sustainable seafood choices.

It will also encourage the patronage of Cannon Beach restaurants and seafood vendors that promise to make sustainable seafood business choices.

Nala Cardillo, coordinator of the Haystack Rock Awareness Program, began researching the project two years ago.

“I was drawn to the idea of food and culture,” she said.

The Sustainable Seafood Invitation supports HRAP’s educational goals, she said.

“We can steer consumers to healthy, good alternative choices for seafood,” Cardillo said. “They can also learn about less healthy choices. It’s a way to empower them.”

A model for the project is Seafood Watch at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, Calif., which submits an updated list of “best,” “good,” and “avoid” seafood choices.

Oregon staples Dungeness crab and pink shrimp, for example, are in the “best” category, but Cardillo, a sushi fan, found a favorite of hers on the “avoid” list.

“I love unagi, or freshwater eel,” she said.

Cardillo said the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s model has been a valuable resource, and HRAP and aquarium staff members will continue to share information.

That information includes features such as the aquarium’s “Seafood Search” category on its website. There, visitors can gather seafood reports by typing in specific seafood names.

Another feature that could raise interest among Cannon Beach restaurateurs is the ability to be listed in the aquarium’s marketing materials if the restaurant serves items listed on the “best” and “good” lists.

“It will create a ripple effect for us,” Cardillo said.

When it comes to HRAP’s potential for raising local consumer and merchant awareness, Cardillo sees an opportunity to address topics they don’t normally cover with visitors.

“So many visitors ask where can they go for a good seafood dinner,” she said. “We are an educational presence on the beach, so it makes sense.”

Cardillo plans on extending the educational program to local businesses, encouraging participation in the form of sustainable menu choices for visitors.

“We’re hoping to establish two business partners from the community,” she said. “We’ll be sharing the invitation locally in May and June and rolling it out for visitors on the Fourth of July.”

There is no cost for participating in the fund’s program. Participating businesses will help customers learn about a variety of worthwhile projects statewide.

Tourism businesses of any size can participate in the program. It welcomes lodging properties, tour operators, guides, restaurants and retail outlets.

The plan is for HRAP staff members to give visitors printed invitations containing information about the program’s local partners and “inviting” them to enjoy a meal at that establishment.

Should the pilot prove successful, Cardillo envisions expanding to four business partners in the future.

She also sees potential for a variety of partners from up and down the Oregon Coast.

“Bringing in different partners has long term benefits to our community,” she said. “To use a fishing metaphor, we’ll ‘cast a broad net.’”

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