News: Blog

Wild About Sustainability at Ray’s Boathouse

With Earth Day around the corner, it’s a great time to renew our commitment to sustainable choices that benefit the planet – and all of us who live here. In this guest post from our partners at Ray’s Boathouse, learn about their work to support sustainable salmon and seafood from the ground up. And if you’d like to pitch in this Earth Day, RSVP to join us on Friday, April 22 to restore Snoqualmie River riparian habitat!

Sustainability and the health of our local waterways has long been an area of focus for the ownership and staff at Ray’s Boathouse. We’ve always worked hard to educate our team about what they are serving, where it came from and how it was caught or harvested. We visit our fisherpeople and other purveyors to see where our product comes from and how they run their businesses.

Since Ray’s current inception in 1973 we have put sustainability at the forefront making sure we purchase fish and seafood from those harvesting humanly and protecting the waters they fish from. Ray’s was one of the first restaurants in Seattle to obtain a wholesale fish buying license that allowed us to buy directly from fisherpeople, and our founding partner Russ Wohlers had direct relationships, often traveling to see operations firsthand. All of this offered transparency—a value we hold dear. We often meet the people who were catching our seafood and see how they were doing it. It is important to know them and understand how we were supporting their businesses and families. 

From the start we knew the importance of sourcing locally and guarding quality. We championed Salmon-Safe certified wine and beer from Washington and Oregon and were early adopters to the farm-to-table and sea-to-plate movements. These not only provide an incredible guest experience but makes our team proud to be part of a company that acts. One example is an incredible Salish Sea Chef’s Dinner we hosted at Ray’s with a group of beloved local chefs dedicated to sustainable seafood.

Nearly five years ago we took our efforts a step further and began partnering with Long Live the Kings to take an even larger role in the welfare of our local salmon runs. Through their deep knowledge and insights, we shifted our focus from one of sustainability to one of growth to ensure our salmon populations increase as our city and infrastructure continues to grow and change.

One shocking fact that stood out to us early in our partnership is that in the early 1980s there were nearly 1,000,000 Chinook salmon harvested here compared to about 200,000 in 2010. This made us want to dive in and ensure our salmon have healthy habitats and estuaries, a vital part of the ecosystem. We want to get back to the point where fisherpeople can sustainably harvest salmon from the Salish Sea as they did decades before.

Bottom line is that we do our best to ensure that our seafood comes from good people, good communities and will be sustainable. To achieve that we continue to evolve and listen to experts like Jacques White and the LLTK team about how we can help amplify their message and support their efforts. 

On this Earth Day we encourage you to do the same. What can you do to help local salmon and steelhead thrive? Donate money (no amount is too small), volunteer for field work (here’s the Ray’s team cutting blackberry bushes and planting new shrubs along riverbanks), attend an LLTK event, share a social media post, raise your voice—it all matters and it all helps keep the momentum moving in the right direction.

Douglas Zellers is the general manager and co-owner of Ray’s Boathouse on the Ballard waterfront in Seattle.