What a Catch: In Search of Sustainable Seafood

 By Rachel Roberts

1342715_56202367Since the 1950s, worldwide fish consumption has nearly tripled. The same cannot be said about fish stocks, which are declining primarily because of unsustainable fishing practices, pollution, and overconsumption. If we continue to consume fish at our current rate, scientists predict that all currently fished species of wild seafood would completely collapse by 2050.

A study done late last year reported major fish species such as tuna, scallops, lobster, and flounder could be extinct by the middle of the century. Impacts are not limited to aquatic food systems, as major fish stock collapses will significantly affect the livelihoods and food security of millions of people around the world. Fishery collapses, however, are not inevitable as there are a number of practices we can adapt to support more sustainable fishing practices.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch recommends that when buying seafood, we should try to select items that are fished or farmed in ways that have less of an impact on the environment. Below are some tips from the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association, “NOAA” that can help guide your next seafood purchase:

  1. If it is harvested in the United States, chances are it is inherently sustainable as U.S. management processes tend to be more rigorous in the sense that fisheries are continuously monitored, improved and sustainable. Buying local reduces greenhouse gases caused by transportation, supports local fisheries, and keeps money in local economies.
  2. When possible, try to buy seafood from knowledgeable and reputable dealers. An increasing number of retailers and restaurants are beginning to implement seafood purchasing policies; make sure to support them for adop1443079_71656057ting such practices.
  3. Download a consumer seafood guide like this one, to find sustainable seafood wherever you are located. For example, Seafood Watch provides recommendations about which seafood choices are the “Best Choices,” “Good Alternatives,” and “products to avoid.”
  4. If possible, eat less predatory fish such as salmon, tuna, and swordfish, and instead, eat lower on the marine food chain such as clams, oysters, mollusks, anchovies, and sardines. Big fish are some of the most vulnerable and overfished fish. Eating lower on the food chain will help big fish populations recover as smaller species are more abundant and reproduce faster.
  5. Lastly, choose to eat fish caught by line, pot or net and avoid fish caught by trawl-catch or bycatch.

There are a number of ways to sustainably source the fish we choose to include in our diet. After all, fish is a good low-fat source of omega three fatty acids. Although seemingly boundless, our ocean’s resources aren’t endless. There are a number of factors that influence aquatic ecosystems, but few have as direct an impact as does fishing. By supporting more sustainable fishing practices, we can all contribute to a healthier functioning aquatic ecosystem for everyone.


“Consumer Guides.” Printable with Seafood and Sushi Recommendations from the Seafood Watch Program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium. Monterey Bay Aquarium Foundation. Web. 4 Dec. 2014. <http://www.seafoodwatch.org/seafood-recommendations/consumer-guides>.

“Eating Sustainable Seafood – Three Tips to Steer Clear of Fisheries Collapse.”Worldwatch Institute. Worldwatch Institute, 4 Dec. 2014. Web. 4 Dec. 2014. <http://www.worldwatch.org/node/4990>.

“Environment: Healing the Web of Life.” Sustainable World Sourcebook: Critical Issues, Viable Solutions, Resources for Action. Berkeley, CA: Sustainable World Coalition, 2014. 27-29. Print.

“FishWatch.” FIsh Watch; U.S. Seafood Facts. NOAA. Web. 4 Dec. 2014.



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