By Elise Deming, MS, RDN, LDN
As the world grows more environmentally conscious, food and agricultural sustainability is increasingly becoming part of the conversation. Many food sources can be farmed, produced, and eaten in a more sustainable way. Seafood is one such element in the food system that can make a sizeable impact when sourced sustainably.
Sustainable vs Non-Sustainable Seafood
Seeking sustainable seafood may not be at the forefront of the average consumer’s minds. However, sourcing sustainable seafood is an impactful movement to adopt. Fish populations face many threats due to overfishing and harvesting limited selections of fish breeds. These looming threats include:
- Over consumption
- Population decline
- Potential breed extinction
These threats are major drivers for today’s shopper to consume seafood in a more sustainable way. The Marine Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch is the country’s forefront driver pushing the
sustainable seafood movement and provides guidance for consumers throughout the country.
What Exactly does Sustainable Seafood Mean?
Following sustainable seafood practices is defined by Seafood Watch as procuring “seafood from sources that can maintain or increase production without jeopardizing the structure and function of affected ecosystems”. In short, this means fishing for and consuming breeds of fish that are not in endangerment of extinction. This practice helps maintain the natural food system of the ocean.
Why Should You Care?
Without a sustainable seafood movement, the marine ocean population will continue to decline and ecosystems will be further altered. Oceana reports that oceans are losing their biodiversity in part due to human interaction. This loss in biodiversity results in declining ecosystems and consequently, declines in fish available for human consumption. Without ocean conservation through sustainable seafood practices, aquatic biodiversity will continue to decline along with many of the fish breeds humans survive on today.
Types of Sustainable Seafood
Supporting the sustainable seafood movement doesn’t mean drastically limiting the seafood you
eat. Depending on your state of residence the Seafood Watch has curated lists of seafood that meet the sustainable needs for that area.
For Pennsylvanians, choosing sustainable seafood may mean eating:
- Salmon from New Zealand instead of from Canada Atlantic, Chile, Norway, or Sweden
- US farmed shrimp instead or imported shrimp
- US Mahi Mahi instead of imported
The above are just a few examples of many state-specific seafood tweaks recommended. These recommendations may change over time as the food system changes. Adopting small
adjustments like these can help support a more sustainable food system.
How to Shop
Despite knowing the facts behind sustainable seafood, it can be difficult to put them
into practice at a restaurant or the grocery store. Some tips to make this easier include:
- Keep the Seafood Watch list on hand or use their app to guide your shopping experience
- Workers behind the seafood counter typically have some insight to help guide your purchase
- At restaurants, don’t shy away from asking the server where the seafood is sourced from and if they have alternatives
Currently, the concern of where food, household products, and necessities are sourced from is
growing and seafood is one such concern. Sustainable seafood helps maintain the ecosystem of the ocean by reducing overfishing and encouraging fish breed diversity. Although it can be challenging, there are many resources to help consumers shop for seafood in a sustainable way.