‘Pocket Guides’ help seafood lovers choose
As the demand for seafood in America increases, a national program is trying to raise awareness about the environmental dangers of purchasing seafood that is caught using unsafe practices.
Seafood Watch, an initiative created in 1999 by the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, encourages consumers and businesses to purchase seafood that is fished or farmed in ways that do not harm the environment.
“Seafood Watch is one of our signature conservation outreach programs,” said Mike Sutton, vice president of the Center for the Future of the Oceans, a program created by Monterey Bay Aquarium to promote the conservation of oceans. “It’s arguably the best known sustainable seafood initiative in the nation.”
In an effort to gain supporters while spreading knowledge about sustainable seafood, the group provides pocket guides to restaurants and distributors. The guides highlight seafood choices that are farmed in environmentally friendly ways, and those that are subject to overfishing or harmful to other marine life. It also offers alternatives to the seafood that should be avoided.
“Big seafood buyers like retailers Whole Foods, Wal-Mart, Target and large food service companies buy millions of pounds of seafood each year. Their choices affect all of us,” Sutton said.
Seafood Watch, which boasts nearly 200 partner organizations across North America who help its cause, also encourages individual seafood lovers to “make better choices” by finding out if the seafood they buy was caught in an eco-friendly manner, Sutton said.
“Fishermen can use more selective gear to catch what they’re after. For example, cod can be caught by destructive bottom trawling or by hook-and-line, which tends to be less destructive and thus more sustainable” Sutton said. “Prawns can be trapped rather than trawled, which does less damage to the sea bottom.”
Sutton said there are several ways consumers can keep the ocean healthy.
“Consumers can use our Seafood Watch program as guidance to help them make better choices when ordering seafood in a restaurant or in the fish market,” Sutton said. “They can also look for the blue-and-white eco-label of the Marne Stewardship Council – a global fishery certification program that rewards sustainable fishing – when shopping for seafood, to help guarantee they are getting the best environmental choice in fisheries.”