Fish + Sustainability

 

There’s an app for that.

seafood watch app

The ticket to shopping for sustainable seafood in the palm of your hand.

Download Monterey Bay Aquarium’s helpful Seafood Watch app HERE. It’s FREE.


WHY IS SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD IMPORTANT?

When it comes to the health of our oceans and the welfare of the laborers who bring seafood to our plates, responsible consumerism is critical. Here’s why:

Population. The populations of sharks, tuna and swordfish have decreased by approx. 90 per cent over the last 50 years due to overfishing and destructive fishing methods.

Bycatch. This is a result of haphazard fishing equipment. Bycatches are unintended victims—such as dolphins, sea turtles and sharks—that are caught in the process of hunting for other types of fish. The bycatch is usually injured, dying or already dead and thrown back into the sea.

Pirate fishing. IUU (Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated) fishing, also described as pirate fishing, is a very serious problem. Not only is it a major contributor to overfishing and sabotaging sustainable management of marine resources, but it’s also responsible for some of the ugliest violations of human rights. These vessels operate for one purpose: to maximize the catch and minimize the cost.

The majority of crew members are vulnerable and untrained; they’re recruited from rural areas by agencies in developing countries where alternative work is extremely limited. Desperate to support their families, they jump on board with hopes to give their loved ones a better life. Once on the ship, the reality of what this life actually entails becomes quite clear. 

Using illegal fishing gear, crews take from developing countries and leave coastal communities—ones that depend on fishing for food and income—with next to nothing. There are also minimum standards when it comes to crew treatment, sanitation and safety. Some are left with no radio or safety equipment at all. Physical abuse is common and, in some cases, murder. Further to all of that, some of these crews have their passports and documents taken away while being held on board against their will with no pay. Agencies take advantage of these workers and their illiteracy by extracting extortionate sums of money from them, leaving them with incredible debt.

For more on this and other relative topics, check out some informative from the Environmental Justice Foundation.

WHAT YOU CAN DO AS A CONSUMER

The answer is quite simple: ask questions and do a bit of homework. When it comes to food, being ethical always sounds like more of an obstacle than it really is. A simple inquiry punched into Google can likely answer your question in less than a minute. The information is out there.

Additionally, a lot of meat is labelled ‘Certified Humane’ and many eggs are labelled ‘cage-free’. When you’re at the deli counter, strike up a conversation with your butcher or fishmonger. They’ll be more than happy to tell you where the meat is from. Some markets even have descriptive labels such as Whole Foods. Whole Foods takes pride in educating their customers and providing them with sustainable seafood so you can shop there with confidence.

Please don’t forget about canned tuna. It’s a staple in pantries across North America so we don’t think much about it, but canned tuna is one of the most unsustainable types of fish there is. Greenpeace USA has a Tuna Shopping Guide that can help in acquiring sustainable canned tuna, which brands to avoid, etc.

BUT SUPERMARKETS NEED TO BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE FIRST

You can only do so much with what you have access to.

In order for sustainable seafood to be readily available to you in the first place, changes need to be made within companies and supermarkets. There are numerous companies and supermarkets that are making money off the collapse of our oceans. These groups need to change their practices and start supporting conservation efforts to eradicate destructive fishing practices.