Ever heard the expression, “There are plenty more fish in the sea?” Well, thanks to sustainable fishing, we may be able to say that.
We have been exploiting our oceans for too long, thinking they are an endless source of resources. However, during the last century, we have realized that overfishing has a huge impact on the ocean environment, which is why we need to do something about it if we want to have plenty of fish for the future.
We have taken steps to improve fish practices, increase sustainability, and allow sustainable seafood and fishing. Read ahead to get your learn-on. Click here to read our review of the best seafood subscription boxes and see what companies deliver sustainable seafood.
Sustainable Seafood 101
Fish consumption has more than doubled in the last 60 years. And considering that 90% of fish stocks are fished to the maximum or overfished, we need to be careful about sourcing our seafood.
Ocean Wise defines sustainable seafood as “Species that are caught or farmed in a way that ensures the long-term health and stability of that species, as well as the greater marine ecosystem.”
So we need to establish responsible fishing practices today to ensure long-term populations of marine wildlife and oceans’ health. When we overfish a species, we disrupt food chains in the ocean, impacting the environment. As a result, we may not have enough fish stocks in the future.
That’s why the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) has developed some guidelines to ensure sustainable seafood, well-managed fisheries, and healthy oceans.
MSC Sustainable Seafood Guide
According to MSC, seafood needs to pass three criteria to be considered sustainable.
- Seafood needs to be harvested from stock with healthy populations.
- Fishing should have a minimal impact on the marine ecosystem.
- Fishing should be performed in an area with effective, responsive, and responsible management.
Fisheries need to pass all of these standards to receive “Sustainable Seafood” MSC certification. And even when a fishery receives an MSC certification of responsible practices, it still needs to follow a strict set of rules and regulations to keep it. MSC regularly inspects all fisheries to make sure they are adhering to these rigorous standards.
There are also other certifications besides MSC, including Aquaculture Stewardship Council, Naturland, Best Aquaculture Practices, and more.
Wild-Caught Fisheries vs. Fish Farms
There is only a limited amount of resources in the ocean, so many people have turned to farming certain seafood species, which is also known as aquaculture. Since wild-capture fisheries have plateaued, aquaculture is a reasonable way to get more resources and feed an increasing number of people worldwide.
The United States is more focused on wild-captured fisheries and has a relatively small number of domestic fish farms. We import many farm-grown species, and expanding our aquaculture industry can be an essential step to ensure a steady supply of healthy protein, create job opportunities for a significant number of people, and focus on environmentally friendly solutions.
Why Is Ocean Well-Being Important?
Overfishing and other poor fishing choices are significantly disrupting the status of every ocean globally. For instance, bycatch is one of the things with the biggest impact.
Bycatch is a practice where fishing with big nets would also result in harvesting other species that may be endangered and fish that are still juvenile, growing, and shouldn’t be available for use. Such wild-caught animals are returned to the ocean, but since the whole process is so poorly managed, most of them die. Alarmingly, bycatch accounts for 40% of all catches in the world. (1)
These practices disrupt global food chains, seafood stocks, overall sustainability, and the future of oceans’ wildlife. But they are not the only problem.
We have been treating every ocean like it’s a garbage can where we can dump our trash without any consequence on the living world. Some reports estimate that by 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in every ocean in the world. (2)
And our actions are coming back to bite us. Climate change has become a real issue in recent years, and our oceans are not immune to it.
So, is the seafood that’s sustainably farmed or fished the solution to it all?
Is Sustainable Seafood Good for the World?
Seafood is an excellent source of protein, and improving fishing practices can help tremendously. Fisheries around the world could follow MSC and other guides, improve management, and help meet the growing food demand. That will spare many species of catastrophic outlooks and improve ecosystems in every ocean.
However, some experts argue that we should stop eating seafood altogether. Proteins from farmed land animals are available, less costly, require less management, and could easily meet high global food demand. However, we know that’s not an easy task. That’s why you should search for seafood that’s certified sustainable for the least environmental impact.
You can check for certified-sustainable seafood labels when shopping. Most wild-capture marine fisheries and farms with good practices will have an MSC or other certification labels.
There is also a great guide by the Marine Conservation Society that allows you to search for more than 140 species of seafood. It helps consumers learn about different wild and farmed species, which should assist in making the best choice when shopping for seafood.
Sustainable seafood is important for many reasons. For instance, the conservation of seafood species, long-term ocean health, marine ecosystem balance, climate change, and socioeconomic factors such as preserving jobs connected to the fishing industry.
Absolutely, sustainable seafood is an excellent source of protein and healthy fats for your diet. However, some scientists speculate whether eating seafood is an environmentally good choice. Even with the best seafood choices, they are concerned about sustainability and wildlife conservation and how we are still affecting our oceans.
Eating sustainable seafood doesn’t require any special preparation or cooking methods. Simply visit one of your local seafood restaurants or find a recipe online and cook a delicious meal. However, keep in mind to learn about food sourcing of restaurants and fish shops before you make your choice.
The Future of Fisheries
Many wild seafood species face extinction or are endangered because of our actions. Sustainable seafood is definitely one of the ways to prevent this.
With stricter regulations, inspections of fisheries, new information, and consumers’ education, we may find ways to save the oceans and all the living world in them. That’s why you should avoid buying seafood that’s not certified-sustainable and get the option with all the information about how it was farmed and managed.
All of this can help the global fishing industry, as sustainability is the right path into the future.