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Choosing Sustainable Seafood Protects Oceans

May 18, 2021
It’s becoming easier and more convenient to find seafood raised and caught sustainability. Here’s a primer on what to look for.

The Walton Family Foundation works with fishers around the world to help them adopt sustainable practices to protect popular species from overfishing and conserve the habitats these fish need to thrive. The foundation also collaborates with NGOs, like Seafood Nutrition Partnership, Marine Stewardship Council, as well as industry partners, scientists, and other experts to increase the proportion of globally-consumed seafood that comes from well-managed, sustainable fisheries.

Senior program officer Teresa Ish spoke with Linda Cornish, founder and president of Seafood Nutrition Partnership, about how eating and cooking sustainable seafood is a simple but important way that everyone can protect the ocean.

Teresa Ish: What is sustainable seafood?

Linda Cornish: Sustainable seafood is fish, shellfish, and seaweed managed and harvested with responsible methods supported by science. To have a sustainable supply of seafood for future generations means that seafood needs to be caught or farmed in environmentally and socially responsible ways. Part of that responsibility is a commitment to social justice and the ethical use of all resources. Sustainability is a journey and there has been significant progress made with sustainable seafood over the past 20 years. This should be celebrated as that is a testament to the growing collaboration across the seafood sector, from philanthropy, non-profits, industry, government, and the science community. Advances in technology will continue to help support best practices in fisheries management, traceability, and improved feed, water quality, catch methods and more.

Teresa Ish: What are the benefits of eating sustainable seafood?

Linda Cornish: Globally, prominent health organizations recommend consumption of at least two servings of seafood a week for brain and heart health, and overall wellness. The essential nutrients from seafood are also vital in supporting our immune health. From an environmental health and food systems standpoint, diets that include seafood have a lower impact on our climate. What we eat matters and consuming sustainable seafood is both good for our health and good for the planet’s health.

Teresa Ish: How is conservation and seafood connected?

Linda Cornish: Choosing sustainable seafood is one of the most effective ways to protect our oceans and the species that depend on the ocean’s fragile ecosystem. People all over the world depend on the ocean for their livelihood and a source of nutrition, and we believe that we can all contribute to help create the economic and environmental conditions to meet everyone’s nutritional needs. Additionally, fish, seafood and blue foods are part of a climate-friendly diet and vital for our future food security.

Teresa Ish: Do you need to live near the ocean to get sustainable seafood?

Linda Cornish: No matter where you live, choosing sustainable seafood is easier than it has ever been. About 90% of U.S. retailers have seafood sustainability purchasing programs in place, and they have these posted on their websites. In addition, about 30% of the seafood we eat globally is certified sustainable or on the path to certification. When consumers prioritize sustainable seafood, whether in a restaurant or at the grocery store, they help accelerate change in the marketplace and the health of our oceans.

Teresa Ish: How do you know if you are buying or eating sustainable seafood?

Linda Cornish: The best advice is to work with your trusted grocery store or restaurant as major U.S. retailers and foodservice operators have seafood sustainability purchasing programs. To be a more informed seafood consumer, ask some simple questions: Where is the seafood from? Is there a third-party certification? When buying fresh fish, ask when the seafood came in? Look for seafood certification programs benchmarked against the Global Seafood Sustainability Initiative, such as the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Blue Fish logo. If you are dining in a restaurant, feel free to ask about the provenance of the seafood on the menu and if it is sustainably sourced.

Teresa Ish: What are some easy ways to include sustainable seafood into your meals?

Linda Cornish: Start with your favorite dish and add sustainable seafood. Think about fish tacos, fish burgers, sandwiches, salads, and pasta. Keep canned or frozen seafood on hand for making a seafood dish in under 30 minutes. I love adding canned mussels and sardines to pasta or making a sheet pan dinner with fish filets and vegetables. For easy recipes, go to www.seafoodnutrition.org.

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