FAO: your new local seafood restaurant?

Why two restaurants in Southern Italy have FAO in their names

FAO fishing areas have inspired restaurants in Southern Italy. Knowing where fish comes from and that it was sourced sustainably is more and more important to consumers and more and more critical to ensure these resources are available for future generations. ©FAO/Pier Paolo Cito


In the province of Brindisi, in the Southern Italian peninsula called Salento, two restaurants have FAO as their namesake. Why? Because their owners decided to name these restaurants after the FAO fishing zone they belong to.

The first of these restaurants, called Zona FAO, was opened by Claudio D’ Arpa, 7 years ago in Torchiarolo, a town some 25 kilometres south of Brindisi. The second one, simply called FAO 37, was opened by Antonio Di Salvatore, in 2017 in the center of Brindisi itself. Italy, as you may have now guessed from these names, lies in FAO fishing area 37. Both restaurants proudly serve fish caught daily by local fishers in the southern Adriatic Sea.

The delineation of FAO fishing areas actually came about in the 1950s when the world community decided that the world’s oceans and seas needed better management and assessment of the fish stocks within them. Led by FAO, this international coalition divided the bodies of water into zones. The Northwest Atlantic is area 21, the Southeast Pacific is area 87 and the Black Sea and Mediterranean, which surrounds Puglia, is area 37.

“I thought that naming my restaurant  Zona FAO was a good idea and that it was going to attract my clients, but I soon realized that most of my new clients didn’t know much about the FAO fishing areas, so I started to explain what FAO Areas are and how the Mediterranean sea is divided into parts,” explains Claudio. Not only owner of the restaurant, Claudio is also the one who buys fish in the morning and works as a waiter by night. Giovanna, his wife, is both the chef and the restaurant’s bookkeeper. She prepares risotto and spaghetti dishes featuring the daily catch. Every time she hears her husband being asked about the FAO fishing areas, she peers out from the kitchen and laughs.

“Now many people have learned about the FAO Areas because they see the tags at the markets, but I’m still asked about them every now and then,” elaborates Claudio.

Left: Antonio di Salvatore (left), owner of FAO 37 restaurant in Brindisi and Massimo Giuliani (right), fish shop owner, hold the fresh fish that will be featured on the day’s menu. Right: Giovanna Stefanelli cooks specialty, spaghetti con frutti di mare (pasta with seafood), at Zona FAO 37 1.2.3 restaurant, using the fresh catch of the day. ©FAO/Pier Paolo Cito

In fact, more and more consumers are interested in the origins of their fish and their food in general. Knowing that the fish comes from the zone closest to you assures a certain quality and freshness.

“There is a very big difference between the fish caught by our fishermen and the frozen fish coming from other FAO areas,” explains Antonio Di Salvatore, owner of FAO 37. “If I don’t find a variety of fresh fish in the local market (because of bad weather that prevents fishermen for going out for example), I don’t replace it with frozen fish.”

Increasingly, people are not just interested in the quality and freshness of the fish, but also in its sustainability. Fishing areas help track that the seafood being sold originates from sustainable resources and has been fished legally. Fishing areas ensure traceability: both for the sake of quality and safety (ensuring that the cold chain hasn’t been broken, for example), but also to track that the fish is legal, i.e. comes from a licensed fishery, that quotas and other fishing regulations have been respected and that both exporters and importers are following the rules.

“FAO fishing areas is a thorough system which really allows the consumer to make an informed decision,” says Ruggero Urbani, Veterinarian and Fish Inspector from the Italian Health Agency.

Fighting illegal fishing is a critical part of ensuring sustainability, keeping our ocean ecosystems healthy and preserving fish resources for future generations. FAO is a strong advocate on this topic and has helped create the Port State Measures Agreement, the first ever legally binding international agreement against Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Estimates suggest that about one in every five fish caught around the world every year comes from IUU fishing, translating into a total annual value of up to USD 23 billion. For the 59.6 million people around the world who depend on fisheries and aquaculture for their livelihoods, this can be detrimental.

FAO fishing areas help the world community better manage its oceans and seas and watch over the fish stocks within them, a necessary step in fighting Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing. ©FAO/Pier Paolo Cito

FAO fishing areas help the international community ensure that resources are used sustainably and that consumers can make educated choices.

Fish in an important part of a healthy diet. It provides an essential source of protein for millions of people around the globe. For some fishing communities, it is their primary source of food and these marine resources are necessary for their food security. Illegal fishing can threaten this food security, both by taking away these sources, but also by undermining the livelihoods of the millions of people worldwide who rely on this income to meet their needs.

To make sure that fish and seafood resources remain available, not just for those of us on the planet now, but also for future generations, we must ensure that we use these resources sustainably. This will keep us on track for a food secure, #ZeroHunger future.

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2. Zero hunger, 12. Responsible consumption and production, 14. Life below water