Buy Sustainable Seafood
What's the problem with seafood?
With 90% of fisheries fully fished or in decline, we can help our oceans by choosing sustainably harvested seafood. That means purchasing from commercial fisheries that harvest fish in ways that protect the ocean and the environment. That ensures there will be fish for future generations.
Overfishing happens when fish are caught at a rate that is faster than the rate at which they can reproduce. For instance, red snapper is a very popular seafood choice. This fish has a life span of up to 60 years but it does not start reproducing until its teens. When red snapper are caught before they are old enough to reproduce, that leaves fewer fish to reproduce, making it harder for the population to recover. Technology is making fishing more efficient and the demand for red snapper and all seafood is increasing. With under-producing and over-fishing, the population of this fish, and many others, is declining.
How fish are harvested matters, too!
For example, shrimp can be wild caught or farm raised. Shrimping that uses traps does not cause many problems for other sea life. In contrast, bottom trawling for shrimp uses big nets dragged on the ocean floor that accidentally catch other sea life, called bycatch. With no commercial value, bycatch is just thrown away. For each pound of shrimp harvested by bottom trawling, four to five pounds of bycatch is wasted, which can result in devastating drops in populations of important species.
Shrimp are also farmed in human-made ponds located near bodies of water. In an open pond system, farmers pump in clean water and flush out dirty water into nearby natural waterways. Unfortunately, that dirty water contains fertilizer, antibiotics, and shrimp wastes that pollute the waterways. However, in a closed pond system, shrimp farmers use a settlement pond to naturally filter the water before it returns to the environment.
One of the most popular fish in the world is salmon. Like shrimp, salmon can be farm-raised or wild-caught. Salmon farmed in closed systems are a good choice, but salmon is also farmed using net pens that are placed in open water. While the nets keep the fish inside the pens, they don’t prevent the wastes, disease, antibiotics, or parasites from being passed through the water to wild fish. It might seem surprising, but Alaskan wild caught salmon is one of the most sustainable seafood choices.
Your seafood choices are important!
How can you tell whether seafood has been sustainably harvested? The Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program helps consumers and businesses choose seafood that is fished or farmed in ways that minimize the impact on sea life and habitats, now and for future generations. They recommend seafood items that are "Best Choices" or "Good Alternatives," and which ones consumers should "Avoid."
The Zoo is a Seafood Watch partner. As part of our commitment to sustainable seafood, we encourage you to check out the Seafood Watch website, and a printable pdf of the Southeast Consumer Guide. You can access their mobile app for iOS and Android here.