Search for fish species near you
Use our map interface to search for species near you
LAUNCH THE MAP
Sustainable seafood is a hot topic these days. “Sustainability” is based on a simple principle - meeting today’s needs without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs; for example, using a resource but leaving some for the future. In terms of seafood, this means catching or farming seafood responsibly, with consideration for the long-term health of the environment and the livelihoods of the people that depend upon the environment. For example, U.S. seafood is wild-caught and farm-raised under strict regulations that work to keep the environment healthy, fish populations thriving, and our seafood industry on the job.
Choosing sustainable seafood be challenging - how do you know the seafood at the market or on your menu came from sustainable sources? Read on to learn more about the seafood guides and ecolabels that have recently emerged to assist people with purchasing sustainable seafood, as well as a few general tips for making smart seafood choices.
To eat or not to eat
A number of organizations have created seafood guides to assist consumers and buyers with their “sustainable seafood” choices. Seafood guides rate seafood, typically based on environmental and biological criteria of species, fisheries, or aquaculture practices. Some guides include health concerns regarding mercury or other contaminants. The ratings found in these guides generally reflect an organization’s policy stance regarding these issues, and as a result, the guides sometimes contradict each other. They also vary in their structure and how they categorize seafood. For example, one guide might rate yellowfin tuna as a whole while another might break it down by country of origin and fishing method.
While shopping for seafood, you might also notice that some seafood is displayed with an ecolabel . An ecolabel is a “seal of approval” awarded to fisheries and aquaculture operations deemed sustainable and responsible by third-party certification bodies. The certification process typically involves an in-depth assessment of the operation of the fishery or farm, how it’s regulated, and its impact on the environment. If the fishery or farm meets the ecolabel’s standards, it is certified. Another key element of ecolabels is chain of custody: the measures that guarantee the product bearing the ecolabel really came from the certified fishery or farm. Without chain of custody, the credibility of the label could be undermined.
Ecolabels are intended to function as a market-based incentive to promote more environmentally-friendly fisheries and aquaculture operations. As concerned consumers shift their demand to certified products, market prices for these products will increase, encouraging fisheries and aquaculture operations to adopt more sustainable and responsible practices. However, the certification process can require a large investment of time and money - resources that some fisheries and aquaculture operations cannot afford.
What You Can Do
With all of the information, guides, and labels out there, shopping for seafood can seem a bit daunting, but it doesn’t have to be.
- Stay informed and make sure you’re using the most up-to-date, credible resources.
- Just like when choosing quality seafood, buy seafood from knowledgeable, reputable dealers. Many retailers and chefs are implementing seafood procurement policies, making purchasing seafood from sustainable sources a priority.
- Ask questions about seafood. Where is it from? Is it wild-caught or farm-raised?
- Most of all, remember you have a choice - make it a smart one.