If you couldn’t tell by the muggy mornings and longer days – summer is in full swing. For many of us that means catching up with friends and family over a backyard fish fry, crab feast or clam bake. But before you chow down, you may consider asking yourself, “Where does my seafood come from?” And if you do know, maybe share the story with friends and family around the table.
Seafood often travels around the world before it ends up on our dinner plate at home and at restaurants. But how can you make sure you are making a choice that supports healthy fisheries and fishing communities?
Sustainable seafood has a tremendous impact on our oceans and our economy, especially the fishing communities that work hard to supply us with the delicious bounty of the sea. In 2015, U.S. fisheries contributed more than $208 billion to our national economy – about five and half times the domestic sales of McDonald’s last year.
More fish means a healthier ocean and a healthier seafood industry, making it possible for fishers to pass down their family’s way of life. But in parts of the world, harmful overfishing and lack of fishery management puts our waters, and the prosperity of those who rely on fishing, at risk.
Fishermen and scientists alike know that when we improve fishery management and provide the right incentives, the results are good for everyone who relies on fish for their future. From hook to table, we at the Walton Family Foundation partner with fishermen and country, industry and fishing community leaders to put in place common-sense policies and practices based on good science. And the data shows it’s working.
Here in the U.S., we have made great strides in ensuring there are enough fish in our waters. Recently NOAA – the federal agency that manages U.S. fish stocks – released a report that shows we’ve made real progress toward ending overfishing. The number of species in the U.S. on the overfished list has reached an all-time low – a huge accomplishment for the fishing communities, the seafood industry and conservation advocates.
A big part of this success is due to the Magnuson-Stevens Act – the U.S.’s primary fishery management law, which enables us to better trace where our seafood comes from and monitor the health of our fish stocks. But that doesn’t mean that there are no more challenges to overcome to protect the gains we have made.
In fact, we’ve seen a number of bills introduced in Congress this year that attempted to weaken this important law. As I write this, there is a chance for one of these bills to make it out of the Senate or House – which would mark a significant step backward for U.S. fisheries.
From governments to businesses to nonprofits to consumers who make sustainable choices – we all have a role to play in protecting our oceans and supporting the communities that rely on them for their livelihoods.
By learning about the seafood you eat and by making the right choice, you can keep this positive momentum going. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program has an easy-to-use app to help ensure the seafood you choose is a sustainable option. You can also look for the Marine Stewardship Council label which guarantees the consumer a sustainable seafood product through an independent certification program.
All of us depend on healthy oceans, for the air we breathe, the food we eat, and the livelihoods our oceans sustain. So, next time you’re perusing the seafood aisle of the grocery store or looking at the menu to decide which fresh catch to enjoy, take a minute to make the smart choice. With everyone working together, we’re convinced we can make seafood a significant sustainability success story of the 21st century.
The Walton Family Foundation promotes ocean sustainability in five core countries including: Indonesia, Peru, Chile, Mexico and the United States. We believe that by working with fishing communities, governments and creating market incentives to build support for sustainable fisheries management, we can make fishing the sustainability success story of the 21st century.
A version of this article originally appeared on July 27, 2018 in