Sustainable seafood is seafood from either fished or farmed sources that can maintain or increase production in the future without jeopardizing the ecosystems from which it was acquired. The sustainable seafood movement has gained momentum as more people become aware about both overfishing and environmentally-destructive fishing methods.
How Seafood is Deemed Sustainable
In general, slow-growing fish that reproduce late in life, such as orange roughy, are quite vulnerable to overfishing. Seafood species that grow quickly and breed young, such as anchovies and sardines, are much more resistant to overfishing. Several organizations, including the Marine Stewardship Council and Friend of the Sea, certify seafood fisheries as sustainable.
In the US, the Sustainable Fisheries Act defines sustainable practices through national standards. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has created FishWatch to help guide concerned consumers to sustainable seafood choices. The NOAA Fisheries’ position is that the “ten National Standards of the Magnuson-Stevens Act, backed up by the principles of other applicable law such as the Endangered Species Act and Marine Mammal Act, function as the US fisheries sustainability standards”.
Who is monitoring Seafood Sustainability
Nonprofit groups addressing seafood sustainability include the Marine Stewardship Council, Monterey Bay Aquarium, Oceana, John G. Shedd Aquarium and Greenpeace. Many of these groups produce consumer guides for sustainable seafood. The Marine Stewardship Council has also implemented a “Fish Forever” label on ocean-friendly seafood in markets.
In March 2009, the tuna industry, scientists and WWF, the global conservation organization, announced a global partnership and formed the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation (ISSF). The group’s website says its mission is to work toward the science-based management and conservation of tuna stocks and the protection of ocean health.
Tips for Sustainable Seafood
When you’re buying seafood in a restaurant or at your grocery store, which options should you choose? By following the following tips, you will be able to make better choices that will help the health of our oceans.
- Be Informed - Last year, the Monterey Bay Aquarium released a sophisticated portal for seafood recommendations, including a set of downloadable pocket guides tailored to your specific geographic location. But the true highlight of the effort was this fantastic free iPhone app enabling sensible seafood choices at the epicenter of the decision-making process: on the go, in restaurants and at the grocery store.
- Low-Impact Fishing Methods - There are more and less sustainable methods for harvesting fish. Know what method was used to catch the fish you choose to eat. Hook and line is a low-impact method of fishing that does no damage to the seafloor and lets fishermen throw back unwanted species, usually in time for them to survive. Intelligently designed traps are also good since they have doors that allow young fish to escape.
- Eat locally Caught Fish - When in the restaurant or the grocery store, look for fish that at caught locally. If you are not sure which fish are local to your area, be sure to ask. Transportation of seafood increases its environmental impact.
- Look for the Marine Stewardship Label - The Marine Stewardship Council certifies seafood is caught or raised in a sustainable, environmentally friendly manner.
- Eat Certified Farmed Shellfish - Farmed shellfish is now being certified by The Food Alliance. They ensure that the farm process is as environmentally responsible as possible.
- Eat Smaller Fish - Smaller fish have lower levels of toxins and their stocks replenish themselves more quickly. Great small seafood choices include squid, oysters, mackerel, sardines and mussels.
- Look for Seafood Frozen-at-Sea - There are many varieties of seafood that freeze well. When frozen-at-sea, fish will not need to be delivered by air. This will dramatically reduce the environmental impact related to transportation.
- Avoid Canned Seafood - Cans often are lined with a BPA-plastic coating. Try to find seafood that is packed in flexible pouches instead.
There is an App for that (from Forbes.com)
There is an excellent article at Forbes.com by Lindsey Hoshaw about sustainable seafood – click HERE for the entire article (highly recommended). Below is an excerpt from that article about available apps.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app is the best on the market. It uses your phone’s GPS to load the right regional guide for your location and even has a new feature called Project FishMap where you can find restaurants serving sustainable seafood in your area. The app includes a sushi guide, which lists fish names in Japanese and English and if you ever find seafood on the “avoid” list, the app will offer suggestions for sustainable alternatives. There’s a glossary to explain fishing terms like gillnetting, pelagic trawling and hydraulic dredging and all seafood is color-coded as “best choice” (green), “good alternative” (yellow) or “avoid” (red). (Price: Free)
Brought to you by the organization that provides ratings for Whole Foods, the Blue Ocean Institute’s FishPhone app is top-notch. Like Seafood Watch, the guide includes a ranking system and suggestions on alternatives to over-fished species. Unlike Seafood Watch, this guide offers five categories instead of three: “relatively abundant” (green), “somewhat abundant” (light green), “somewhat problematic” (yellow), “low abundance” (orange) and “problematic” (red). It also offers recipes and wine pairings to complement select seafood. The guide doesn’t provide regional information about fish you’re likely to find in your local market or which restaurants have sustainable options. But overall it’s a great app with a sweet price tag. (Price: Free)
Safe Seafood provides rankings—“enjoy!” (green), “eat in moderation” (orange) and “avoid” (red)—for over 100 different types of seafood. Each species includes a photo, description and even a link to Wikipedia with more information about that type of seafood. It’s pretty minimalist without a glossary of terms, any GPS functionality or recipes and wine pairings. But as a quick, easy-to-use guide it definitely gets the job done. The app costs $.99 and the developers donate 10% of all proceeds to the Environmental Defense Fund. (Price: $.99)