Is it sustainable?
You've learned about the issues and want to do your part by making ocean-friendly seafood choices when you grocery shop and eat out – but where to begin?
The easiest way to find out what seafood is sustainable is to turn to a trusted guide. We recommend using the Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch (which comes in a mobile app as well as a downloadable, printable pocket guide to keep on hand), the Aquarium of the Pacific's Seafood for the Future, or looking for a Marine Stewardship Council ecolabel. If you live outside of the US, you can also find a seafood guide for your own region here.
With so many seafood options and so many issues to consider, even the simplest guides can be a bit hard to navigate at times. Luckily, by asking just a few key questions and matching the answers to your guide, you can easily get to the bottom of it:
What kind of fish, specifically, is it?
Many menus are unspecific. What is listed as tuna could be ahi, skipjack, yellowtail, bluefin, big eye, albacore or others.
Is it farmed or wild?
What you are looking for here depends on the species. Farmed oysters are more sustainable than wild ones, but when it comes to salmon, wild-caught is typically less harmful than farmed.
How was it caught?
Bottom trawl and purse seine are very damaging to the environment. Longline and gillnet can be better, though still quite harmful, depending on the fishery. Pole and line is typically lower impact.
Where is it from?
Pacific wild salmon and halibut are sustainable while the Atlantic versions of both are not. Some countries have stronger regulations than others. Farmed seafood from the US is often recommended as more sustainable than imported, for example, and also healthier due to restrictions on chemical use.
While in some cases, grocers and waiters won't know the answers offhand – they may not even know what you mean by sustainable – they are usually happy to find out the answers for you.
By asking these questions, you’re raising awareness, and telling businesses that their customers are informed and expect them to be as well.
Making these choices carefully is not only key to the ocean's health, it is important to your own, as a 2012 study found that sustainable seafood also tends to be higher in health benefits and lower in risks.
Our infographic below helps illustrate the issues.