Photo: What is sustainable seafood?

(Credit: Warren via Flickr)

Making sustainable seafood choices is about supporting solutions for healthier oceans. Choosing sustainable seafood is an easy and effective action that you can take every time you purchase seafood. Whether you are an individual shopper who shops for your family, a chef who offers seafood on your menu, or a supplier sourcing from fishing communities, your choices count. Voting with your wallet sends a strong signal to government and industry leaders, telling them that you support responsible stewardship of our natural marine resources.

We define sustainable seafood as seafood fished or farmed in a manner that can maintain or increase production in the long term, without jeopardizing the health or function of the web of life in our oceans.

So how do we decide which fish and shellfish are sustainable?

We use the following decision criteria, developed by Seafood Watch, which illustrate the qualities that wild capture fisheries or farmed fisheries must have to be considered sustainable by the David Suzuki Foundation and our partners in the SeaChoice program.

Seafood from sustainable capture fisheries:

  • Have a low vulnerability to fishing pressure, and hence a low probability of being overfished, because of their inherent life-history characteristics;
  • Have stock structure and abundance sufficient to maintain or enhance long-term fishery productivity;
  • Are captured using techniques that minimize the catch of unwanted and/or unmarketable species;
  • Are captured in ways that maintain natural functional relationships among species in the ecosystem, conserve the diversity and productivity of the surrounding ecosystem, and do not result in irreversible ecosystem state changes; and
  • Have a management regime that implements and enforces all local, national and international laws and utilizes a precautionary approach to ensure the long-term productivity of the resource and integrity of the ecosystem.

Seafood from sustainable aquaculture:

  • Uses less wild caught fish (in the form of fish meal and fish oil) than it produces in the form of edible marine fish protein, and thus provides net protein gains for society;
  • Does not pose a substantial risk of deleterious effects on wild fish stocks through the escape of farmed fish;
  • Does not pose a substantial risk of deleterious effects on wild fish stocks through the amplification, retransmission or introduction of disease or parasites;
  • Employs methods to treat and reduce the discharge of organic waste and other potential contaminants so that the resulting discharge does not adversely affect the surrounding ecosystem; and
  • Implements and enforces all local, national and international laws and customs and utilizes a precautionary approach (which favours conservation of the environment in the face of irreversible environmental risks) for daily operations and industry expansion.

A detailed description of the assessment methodology used for determining the green, yellow, or red ranking for seafood can be found on the SeaChoice website.

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