The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that the consumption of fish worldwide reached an all-time high in 2008. Unfortunately, there is also an increasing trend in overexploited and depleted marine stocks and a decreasing trend in seafood that is underexploited. Clearly, there is a vital need for sustainable management of seafood worldwide. Consumers as well as fishermen and retailers need to protect seafood resources and ensure the future availability of seafood for future generations.
On June 21, members of the Seattle food community came together at the Palace Ballroom in downtown Seattle for an expert dialogue about sustainable seafood. The goal of the evening was to discuss what seafood sustainability means to consumers. The panel discussion, Consumer’s Conflict: Fishing for Answers was sponsored* by Whole Foods Market. Whole Foods actively works on building a sustainable seafood supply chain by finding fishermen who are harvesting seafood sustainably or working with those who aren’t to put a sustainable process in place.
The issues surrounding seafood sustainability are very complex. People need to eat; seafood is part of a healthy lifestyle. The fishing industry needs to make a living. Wild fish stocks need to be sustained. Aquaculture needs to be environmentally sound.
So what can consumers do?
Consumers can get better informed about what seafood is sustainably harvested to guide their choice when shopping or dining. Consumers can also get involved with a conservation organization that actively works to assist the seafood industry in making a living while protecting our seafood resources.
- Download the MBA Seafood Watch Pocket Guides or Mobile Guides or the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) consumer guides Seafood Selector and Sushi Selector.
- Look for the ecolabel on certified sustainable seafood by Marine Stewardship Council, the world’s leading certifier for sustainable seafood.
- For more information on responsible shopping and eating in Seattle, read Where to buy sustainable fish, a seafood guide to Seattle specialty stores.
Join, pledge, volunteer or donate to one or more of the following organizations that work on the issue of seafood sustainability.
Puget Sound Region seafood conservation organizations
- Coalition to Protect Puget Sound Habitat works to regulate the Aquaculture Industry in Puget Sound to Protect Salmon and other Native Species
- Protect Our Shoreline is a group of shoreline properties owners, environmentalists, fishermen, boaters, and others concerned about the expansion plans of the shellfish industry in Washington State.
National seafood conservation organizations
- Environmental Defense Fund works on initiatives both domestically and around the globe related to the environment, including sustainable and healthy oceans. EDF publishes the consumer guides Seafood Selector and Sushi Selector.
- Food & Water Watch works to ensure the food, water and fish we consume is safe, accessible and sustainably produced. Food & Water Watch publishes a Seafood Guide for consumers who want to get smart about the seafood they are eating.
- Marine Stewardship Council works with partners to transform the world’s seafood markets and promote sustainable fishing practice through their fishery certification program and ecolabel, which identifies certified sustainable seafood.
- Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. Take their pledge to share the sustainable seafood message with friends, co-workers and their communities to help promote healthy oceans.
- Ocean Champions is the only political voice for ocean health and works to build bi-partisan support for ocean conservation in the U.S. Congress and in key states leading to legislative action.
International seafood conservation organizations
- Coastal Alliance for Aquaculture (CAAR), based in British Columbia, Canada works to protect wild salmon, coastal ecosystems, coastal communities and human health from destructive fish farming practices.
- Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions is a coalition of U.S. and Canadian organizations (including many of those listed in this article) who bring conservation expertise to seafood buyers and suppliers in order to help them develop and implement a sustainable seafood policy.
- The Pew Environment Group of the Pew Charitable Trust works to promotes sustainable fisheries, safeguarding sensitive marine habitats, and protecting vulnerable marine biodiversity by supporting the best science and analyses to inform policy solutions at all levels, from local and national governments to intergovernmental fora.
- Seafood Choices Alliance is an international program founded in the U.S. with offices in the UK and France. The program seeks to empower a sustainable seafood industry through collaboration.
- Oceana is the largest international organization working solely to protect the world’s oceans with offices in North, South and Central America and Europe.
*My complimentary ($20) ticket to attend the panel discussion was provided by Curator, a Seattle PR agency who represents Whole Foods Market.