Choosing SustainaBle

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. 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.


How do you know the seafood at the market or on your menu came from sustainable sources?  Here are some tips that can guide you and your purchases to support sustainable practices:


  • If it’s harvested in the United States, it is inherently sustainable as a result of the rigorous U.S. management process that ensures fisheries are continuously monitored, improved, and sustainable.
  • Stay informed and make sure you’re using the most up-to-date, credible resources. FishWatch is one of those resources.
  • Buy seafood from knowledgeable, reputable dealers. Many retailers and chefs are implementing seafood purchasing policies, making sustainable sourcing a priority.
  • Ask questions about seafood to learn how to identify high quality, sustainable seafood. Where is it from? Does that country manage its fisheries sustainably? 
  • Imported seafood can also be safe and sustainable, but comes from a variety of sources and may not be produced to the same standards as U.S. seafood. In the United States, our standard is sustainability.

Be sure to follow the tips above to make sure you know the facts about your seafood.


Seafood selection at Maine Avenue Fish Market in Washington, D.C.

Over the years, many organizations have developed seafood guides, ecolabels, and certification programs to guide seafood purchasing. The majority of these products are based on the scientific data and standards that NOAA Fisheries uses to manage and enforce U.S. fisheries.

Seafood Guides: A number of non-profit organizations have created seafood guides that rate seafood, typically based on environmental and biological criteria for species, fisheries, or aquaculture practices. 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.

Eco-labels: An eco-label 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 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. Ecolabels also often include chain of custody requirements: the measures that guarantee the product bearing the ecolabel really came from the certified fishery or farm. It’s important to note, however, that the certification process can require a large investment of time and money - resources that some fisheries and aquaculture operations cannot afford.

FishWatch: FishWatch does not rank or rate one species or fishery over another because the species profiled are being legally harvested under the responsible fisheries management process of the United States. With FishWatch, you have access to the most up-to-date information on the status, science, and enforcement sustaining our nation’s fisheries and the seafood they provide. Remember that you have a choice when purchasing seafood—make it a smart one. FishWatch can help you support U.S. fisheries and seafood jobs and make sustainable choices.