One of my goals this year is to eat more seafood. Besides the numerous health and beauty benefits (shiny hair and glowing skin anyone?) that seafood provide, adding fish to my diet adds a whole new culinary market to my daily routine. One of the biggest concerns when choosing seafood is making sure that what you order is on the sustainable fish guide. The Monterey Bay Aquarium has developed a program called Seafood Watch where consumers can learn about the best seafood to eat and the ones to avoid. Below are excerpts directly from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website which is found here. Please read on to learn more about sustainable fish practices and what you can do to help out!
A LOOK AT THE BIGGEST CHALLENGES- AND THE WAY FORWARD
While it may seem that there are plenty of fish in the sea, it’s a different story just below the surface. Overfishing, lack of effective management and our own consumption habits are just a few factors contributing to a decline in wild fish.
Evidence of these problems abounds. Overfishing has resulted in nearly all commercial fish populations being well below natural levels. In just the past decade, Atlantic populations of halibut, bluefin tuna, swordfish, haddock and yellowtail flounder all joined this list of species at all-time lows. The cod fishery, once a backbone of the North Atlantic economy, collapsed completely in the early 1990s. The breeding population of Atlantic bluefin tuna has been declining steeply and may disappear completely in a few years without significant, immediate management changes. Other harmful effects of fishing- some of which are preventable with modifications to gear- impact the oceans, including the accidental catch of unwanted species (bycatch) and habit damage from fishing gear.
HOW DID WE GET HERE?
One reason is the advent of industrial-scale fishing, which began in the lat 1800s and has been accompanied by significant declines in the size and abundance of fish. By the mid-1990s, these fishing practices had made it impossible for natural fish stocks to keep up. Seventy percent of the world’s fisheries are now fully exploited, overexploited or have collapsed. Meanwhile, demand has continued to rise, to about 110 million in 2006- over eight times what it was in 1950. It is estimated that by 2030, the world will need an additional 37 million tons of farmed fish per year to maintain current levels of consumption.
OUT OF SIGHT, OUT OF MIND?
Because the oceans seem so vast and their resources limitless, these threats are often “out of sight, out of mind.” But overfishing issues are not just for future generations to endure; they are very real problems threatening our current seafood supply and the health of our oceans. The good news is that there is much we can do- if we act now.
WILD SEAFOOD ISSUES
Overfishing: Simply put, we are removing fish from the ocean faster than they can reproduce. More boats on the water and more effective fishing practices have worked together over the last 60 years to shift the advantage to fishermen. Decades of overfishing have driven fish populations to levels so low that recovery, when possible, is a long-term proposition.
Illegal fishing: Experts estimate that illegal, unreported or unregulated fishing- sometimes called pirate fishing- accounts for a quarter of the world’s total catch of wild fish. Many fisheries that may otherwise be sustainable ignore and violate regulations, leading to overfishing.
Habitat damage: The habitat that fish need to survive can be destroyed by some types of fishing gear, for instance when large nets or trawls are dragged along the seafloor, sweeping up everything in their paths. Learn more habitat damage
Bycatch: The process of bringing a fish to market can be messy. Large nets and longlines intended for one species often catch others by mistake. Fish, sea birds, turtles and marine mammals are included in this “bycatch,” and are usually thrown back dead or dying. Learn more about bycatch
Management: Worldwide, regulation of the fishing industry is weak, non-existent or not well-enforced. Rules intended to deal with overfishing, illegal fishing and the related issues of bycatch and habitat damage are ignored, and species like tuna that travel long distances are not managed consistently over their range. Learn more about management
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Make ocean-friendly seafood choices today: You can get the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s online, in printed pocket guides or on your mobile device. Learn the best questions to ask when buying seafood or eating out. The pocket guide is available here. It fits perfectly into any wallet or purse to keep with you at all times!
Want to do even more?: Are you committed to helping spread the word about ocean-friendly seafood? Then take the pledge to become a Seafood Watch Advocate. Advocates share the sustainable seafood message with friends, co-workers and their communities to help promote healthy oceans. Become a Seafood Watch Advocate here… I am!