Sustainable seafood

Sustainable seafood

Sustainable seafood is seafood from either fished or farmed sources that can maintain or increase production in the future without jeopardizing the ecosystems from which it was acquired. The sustainable seafood movement has gained momentum as more people become aware about both overfishing and environmentally-destructive fishing methods.

How seafood is deemed sustainable

In general, slow-growing fish that reproduce late in life, such as orange roughy, are quite vulnerable to overfishing. Seafood species that grow quickly and breed young, such as anchovies and sardines, are much more resistant to overfishing. Several organizations, including the Marine Stewardship Council, and Friend of the Sea, certify seafood fisheries as sustainable.

Marine Stewardship Council

(MSC) is an international non-profit organization that runs a certification and eco-labelling programme for sustainable seafood.

The MSC was founded in 1997 as a unique green-business partnership between WWF, the global environmental conservation organization, and Unilever, at the time a major seafood processor. It has been fully independent since 1999.

Fisheries that meet the MSC standard for a sustainable fishery can use the blue MSC ecolabel (shown right) on their seafood products. This enables consumers to easily identify sustainable seafood when shopping or dining out. The MSC website lists [ outlets selling MSC-certified seafood] .

As of August 2008, there are over 1,700 MSC-labelled seafood products sold in 38 countries around the world [ [ About MSC ] ] . Approximately 7% of the world’s edible wild seafood catch comes from fisheries engaged in the MSC program. 34 fisheries have been independently certified as meeting the MSC’s environmental standard for sustainable fishing and over 70 are currently undergoing assessment. Another 20 to 30 are in confidential pre-assessment. Together the fisheries record annual catches of over 4 million tonnes of seafood. They represent 42 percent of the world’s wild salmon catch, 40 percent of the world’s prime whitefish catch, and 18 percent of the world’s lobster catches for human consumption.

The MSC standard for a sustainable fishery looks at 3 aspects of a fishery [Marine Stewardship Council] :

1. The condition of the fish stock(s) of the fishery - this examines if there are enough fish to ensure that the fishery is sustainable.

2. The impact of the fishery on the marine ecosystem - this examines the effect that fishing has on the immediate marine environment including other fish species, marine mammals and seabirds.

3. The fishery management system - this evaluates the rules and procedures that are in place to maintain a sustainable fishery and to ensure that the impact on the marine environment is minimised.

The MSC has the only seafood ecolabel that is consistent with the ISEAL Code of Good Practice for Setting Social and Environmental Standards and UN FAO guidelines for fisheries certification. The FAO ‘Guidelines for the Eco-labelling of Fish and Fishery Products from Marine Capture Fisheries’, require that credible fishery certification and ecolabelling schemes include:

- Objective, third-party fishery assessment utilising scientific evidence;

- Transparent processes with built-in stakeholder consultation and objection procedures;

- Standards based on the sustainability of target species, ecosystems and management practices.

The MSC has succeeded in bringing together a broad coalition of supporters from several organizations and businesses around the world with a stake in the future of seafood. The MSC works through a multi-stakeholder partnership approach, taking into account the views of all those seeking to secure a sustainable future.

Friend of the Sea

Friend of the Sea [ [ Friend of the Sea] ] is a project for the certification and promotion of seafood from sustainable fisheries and sustainable aquaculture. It is the only certification scheme which, with the same logo, certifies both wild-caught and farmed seafood. Friend of the Sea started as a project of the Earth Island Institute, the NGO which operates the successful International Dolphin-Safe project ( It is participated by some of the main retailers world wide, such as Carrefour Italy, Coop Italia, Eroski, Manor and Finiper. Some important producers have also undergone their products to assessment for certification.

Friend of the Sea’s criteria compliance is verified by independent accredited certification bodies. Essential criteria for fisheries are the following (all criteria are described in documents downloadable from website): (a) the product should not originate from overexploited (nor depleted, data deficient or recovering) stocks; (b) fishing method should not impact the seabed; (c) fishing method should be selective (maximum 8% discard – average WW according to FAO 2005); (d) fishery should respect all legal requirements. A list of Friend of the Sea conforming origins and approved fishing methods is available under the ‘Sustainable Fisheries’ menu on the web site.

eafood Watch

The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program, although not an official certifying body like the MSC, also provides guidance on the sustainability of certain fish species. Seafood Watch takes into account the [ [ Monterey Bay Aquarium: Seafood Watch Program - Frequently Asked Questions ] ] :

1. Inherent vulnerability of the species to fishing pressure

2. Status of the species population.

3. Nature and extent of bycatch.

4. Effect of fishing practices on habitats and ecosystems.

5. Effectiveness of the fishery management.

Government organisations

In the US, the Sustainable Fisheries Act defines sustainable practices through national standards. Although there is no official certifying body like the MSC, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has created FishWatch to help guide concerned consumers to sustainable seafood choices. [NOAA: [ FishWatch] ]

Chefs and restaurants

Due to growing public concern about overfishing, many seafood restaurants have begun to offer more sustainable seafood options. Additionally, some restaurants specialize in sustainable seafood, such as the seafood restaurant Hook in Washington, DC. The Seafood Choices Alliance is an organization whose members include chefs that serve sustainable seafood at their establishments.


For a comprehensive list of sustainable seafood options, several organizations provide free, pocket-sized guides about "best," "good," and "avoid" seafood choices. [ [ Overfishing - A global environmental problem, threat and disaster ] ]


* [ Guide to good fish guides] A comprehensive list of region specific seafood guides.
* [ Oceans Alive]
*Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch []
* [ Blue Ocean Institute]
* [ Audubon Society Seafood Lover's Guide]


External links

* []
* [ American Fishermens Research Foundation]
* [ Western Fishboat Owners Association]
* [ CleanFish Sustainable Seafood]
* [ Charting Nature]
* [ Outlets selling MSC-labelled seafood]
* [ Seafood Choices Alliance]
* [ Podcast interview on how to eat seafood sustainably]

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