As the newest member of the Ty Warner Sea Center Sustainable Seafood Program, Mac’s Fish & Chip Shop at 503 State St. can boast more than finger-licking morsels of fried fish. Its menu offers only sustainable Alaskan cod — a delicious treat for seafood lovers and environmentally friendly folks alike.

Grant MacNaughton, owner of Mac's Fish & Chip Shop on State Street in Santa Barbara, says the restaurant chose to be sustainable to because it's the right thing to do.

Grant MacNaughton, owner of Mac’s Fish & Chip Shop on State Street in Santa Barbara, says the restaurant chose to be sustainable “because it’s the right thing to do.” (Ian Stevenson photo / www.ianstevensonphotography.com)

“We chose sustainable seafood because it’s the right thing to do,” owner Grant MacNaughton said. “We’re going to go through a lot of fish, and we want to leave a good trail, not one of destruction.”

Serving 150 to 200 meals a day to the bustling downtown Santa Barbara crowd, British owners Grant and Kate MacNaughton take pride in their reasonable prices, authentic British recipes and high-quality ingredients. Besides the classic fish and chips dish, they also serve other United Kingdom delights, including savory pies, specialty sausages, haggis and a side of mushy peas.

“They made a choice to serve really quality fish,” said Amanda Hendrickson, director of the Ty Warner Sea Center. “I’m thrilled to support their choice while enjoying a meal.”

A significant amount of seafood is sold through seafood restaurants, giving customers the opportunity to have a big impact on the industry, she said.

“By choosing sustainable seafood, they are relieving pressure on the species from overfishing as well as supporting a sustainable fishing industry,” Hendrickson said. “It’s positive for both sides.”

Decades of overfishing have been linked to depleted Atlantic cod populations, resulting in a murky future for the species. Since cod are deepwater fish, fishermen often drag large nets (bottom trawls) across the sea floor, which damage habitats and catch unwanted bycatch. Choosing sustainability means choosing healthy fish populations as well as low-impact fishing practices.

“Sustainable Alaskan cod is more expensive, but it’s a cost the customers appreciate,” Grant MacNaughton said. “They get a better quality product. They understand that sustainability has a cost.”

On the second floor of the Sea Center, a sustainable seafood exhibit catches visitors before they leave the aquarium.

“The biggest reaction I hear people say is, ‘Wow, I didn’t know that,’” Hendrickson said. “You can tell people are interested by how many Seafood Watch cards and Santa Barbara restaurant lists are taken.”

With thousands of local and out-of-town visitors each year, the Sea Center tries to get the word out about sustainable seafood. Look for the octopus logo on the 13 other restaurants in Santa Barbara dedicated to the program.

Mac's Fish & Chip Shop serves only sustainable Alaskan cod in its classic fish and chips dish.

Mac’s Fish & Chip Shop uses only sustainable Alaskan cod for its fish and chips platter. (Ian Stevenson photo / www.ianstevensonphotography.com)

Advisers from the Ty Warner Sea Center Sustainable Seafood Program can help restaurants go over fish options and find sustainable seafood suppliers.

“Mac’s Fish & Chip Shop called us right away when they were opening their restaurant,” Hendrickson said. “After the initial phone call, we only had to meet once to go over the menu.”

“It was super simple,” MacNaughton said. “We looked up which fish matched the traditional British fish and chip shop, and then looked up that fish on the Monterey Bay Sustainable Seafood list. We cross referenced the two and came up with sustainable Alaskan cod. It’s as easy as that.”

The Monterey Bay Aquarium offers the Seafood Watch card through an iPhone application, so users can access it quickly and easily.

“We are very proud members of the Ty Warner Sea Center Sustainable Seafood Program,” he said. “Customers like the fact that our fish is sustainable. For customers, us and the environment — it’s a win-win-win situation.”

Noozhawk contributor Andrea Ellickson can be reached at aellickson@noozhawk.com.