Learning about sustainable seafood options can be daunting: many popular wild fish species have been depleted; much fish farming is done in an unsustainable manner; and more than 80 percent of seafood in the US is imported from other countries, often with questionable health, safety, labor and environmental standards. However, by doing a little research on your own using consumer sustainable seafood guides, perusing he FoodPrint seafood label guide and by directly asking restaurants and markets about where their fish comes from and how it was caught or farmed, you can find healthy and sustainable seafood.

Wild Seafood and Fisheries

Fishing has a long history in the US, from Native American traditions to the fishing cultures of many immigrant populations in the US. Today, intricate new fishing technologies exist, like bottom cameras, that serve as fish finders. Some of the newer methods of catching fish are more ecologically friendly than others. For example, fishermen can choose and modify gear that can specifically target certain fish types rather than catching (and potentially harming or killing) a variety of marine life unnecessarily. 3 Other less popular edible species, called “trash fish” by some, have healthy populations and could help relieve pressure on the top five seafood species. 4

Despite efforts to maintain sustainable wild fishing, past practices have left certain species vulnerable to overfishing. Overfished stocks need to be allowed to recover; in other words, some fishing should be allowed, but at reduced levels to help maximize the number of fish, which can help to rebuild a population on the whole. Stocks of fish are managed by using catch limits to reduce the chance of overfishing and increase biological and economic sustainability of wild fishing. Since 2000, 41 stocks of fish have been rebuilt. However, since 2016, the 30 stocks of fish on the overfishing list and the 38 stocks on the overfished list are at all-time lows.

Farmed Seafood (Aquaculture)

Because fish and other seafood are a globally shared resource, there have been major declines in popular species due to overfishing, habitat loss and pollution. In an effort to address depleted wild fish populations while meeting the public demand for seafood, various other methods of fishing and other seafood production have become popular — collectively dubbed “fish farming.” Today, farmed fish make up about 50 percent of the seafood consumed globally.

What You Can Do

Hide References

  1. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Fishing Gear and Risks to Protected Species.” NOAA, (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/national/bycatch/fishing-gear-and-risks-protected-species
  2. Seafood Watch. “Turning the Tide: The State of Seafood, Second Edition.” Monterey Bay Aquarium, 2011. Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.seafoodwatch.org/-/m/sfw/pdf/businesses/mba-seafoodwatch-state-of-seafood-report.pdf?la=en 
  3. Ibid
  4. Greenfield, Nicole. “The Smart Seafood Buying Guide.” Natural Resources Defense Council, August 26, 2015. Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.nrdc.org/stories/smart-seafood-buying-guide
  5. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Status of Stocks 2016.” NOAA, 2016. Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://repository.library.noaa.gov/view/noaa/15620
  6. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Sustainable Seafood.” NOAA, (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/topic/sustainable-seafood
  7. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Understanding Sustainable Seafood.” NOAA, June 25, 2017. Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/insight/understanding-sustainable-seafood
  8. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Aquaculture.” NOAA, (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.nmfs.noaa.gov/aquaculture/faqs/faq_seafood_health.html
  9. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “NOAA expands opportunities for U.S. aquaculture.” NOAA, January 11, 2016. Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/media-release/noaa-expands-opportunities-us-aquaculture
  10. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “The Surprising Sources of Your Favorite Seafoods.” NOAA, October 1, 2011. Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/surprising-sources-your-favorite-seafoods
  11. Consumer Reports. “How safe is your shrimp?” Consumer Reports, April 24, 2015. Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/magazine/2015/06/shrimp-safety/index.htm
  12. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “The Surprising Sources of Your Favorite Seafoods.” NOAA, October 1, 2011. Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/feature-story/surprising-sources-your-favorite-seafoods
  13. Done, Hansa Y. “Reconnaissance of 47 antibiotics and associated microbial risks in seafood sold in the United States.” Journal of Hazardous Materials, 282: 10-17 (January 2015). Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0304389414008012?via%3Dihub
  14. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “Feeds for Aquaculture.” NOAA, April 6, 2018. Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.fisheries.noaa.gov/insight/feeds-aquaculture
  15. New York State. “Restore New York Shellfish.” New York State, (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/110939.html
  16. Souza, Michael. “Problems Inherent to Aquaculture.” The Balance, November 25, 2018. Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.thebalance.com/aquaculture-problems-inherent-to-aquaculture-1301970  
  17. Leschin-Hoar, Clare. “90 Percent Of Fish We Use For Fishmeal Could Be Used To Feed Humans Instead.” NPR, February 3, 2017. Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.npr.org/sections/thesalt/2017/02/13/515057834/90-percent-of-fish-we-use-for-fishmeal-could-be-used-to-feed-humans-instead
  18. Murphy, Jessica. “Bloody sewage from Canada fish plant ‘threatens’ wild salmon.” BBC, November 29, 2017. Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.bbc.com/news/world-us-canada-42115794
  19. Recirculating Farms Coalition. “Better Fish Farming.” Recirculating Farms Coalition, (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.betterfishfarming.org
  20. “Recirculating Farms Coalition.” Recirculating Farms Coalition, (n.d.). Retrieved April 24, 2019, from https://www.recirculatingfarms.org/
  21. EDF Seafood Selector. “Mercury in seafood.” Environmental Defense Fund, (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://seafood.edf.org/mercury-seafood
  22. US Environmental Protection Agency. “Hudson River Cleanup.” EPA, February 21, 2017. Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://www3.epa.gov/hudson/cleanup.html
  23. World Health Organization. “Dioxins and Their Effects on Human Health.” WHO, October 2016. Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs225/en/
  24. Center for Food Safety. “Aquaculture: Human Health Risks.” CFS, (n.d.). Retrieved April 30, 2019, from https://www.centerforfoodsafety.org/issues/312/aquaculture/human-health-risks