Sustainable Seafood Made Easy
Seafood Watch was developed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium to research and evaluate wild-caught and farmed seafood. The result is comprehensive seafood sustainability recommendations for the major seafood species consumed in the United States. Seafood Watch defines sustainable seafood as from sources, whether fished or farmed, that can maintain or increase production into the long-term without jeopardizing the structure or function of affected ecosystems.
Seafood Watch's mission is to empower consumers and businesses to make choices for healthy oceans. The goal is to shift the buying habits of consumers and businesses to support sustainable fisheries and aquaculture operations. Seafood Watch is committed to: providing seafood recommendations and background information to enable consumers and businesses to make more environmentally sound decisions; conduct outreach and marketing to generate awareness that will motivate consumers and business to support sustainable sources of seafood; and, conduct scientifically rigorous analyses and make these analyses accessible to the public or other seafood users groups.
Seafood Watch has developed a Sustainability Guide for Businesses which outlines steps that businesses can take to improve the sustainability of the seafood they buy or sell and gives them the resources to communicate these efforts to their customers. Those that sign up to receive the guide will also get advance notice of Seafood Watch's monthly seafood recommendations, invitations to educational webinars, information about regional events, and much more. Businesses can take the next step toward seafood sustainability by signing up to receive the guide here.
Seafood Watch defines sustainable seafood as seafood from sources, whether fished or farmed, that can maintain or increase production without jeopardizing the structure and function of affected ecosystems. In keeping with this definition, Seafood Watch refers to the following guiding principles to illustrate the qualities that fisheries and aquaculture operations must possess to be considered sustainable. These objectives inform the performance criteria and scoring methodology used to assess fisheries and aquaculture operations.
Sustainable wild capture fisheries:
Sustainable aquaculture farms and collective industries:
1. Impacts on the Species Under Assessment
1.2 Fishing Mortality
2. Impacts on Other Capture Species
2.2 Fishing Mortality
2.3 Modifying Factor: Discards and Bait Use
3. Management Effectiveness
3.1 Management Strategy and Implementation
3.2 Bycatch Strategy
3.3 Scientific Research and Monitoring
3.4 Enforcement of Management Regulations
3.5 Stakeholder Inclusion
4. Impacts on the Habitat and Ecosystem
4.1 Physical Impact of Fishing Gear on the Habitat/Substrate
4.2 Modifying Factor: Mitigation of Gear Impacts
4.3 Ecosystem-based Fisheries Management
2.1 Waste discharged per ton of fish
2.2 Management of farm-level and cumulative impacts
3.1 Habitat conversion and function
3.2 Farm siting regulation and management
4. Chemical Use
5.1 Wild fish use
5.2 Net protein gain or loss
5.3 Feed footprint
6.1 Escape Risk Score
7. Disease, Pathogen and Parasite Interaction
8X. Source of Stock - Independence from Wild Fish Stocks
9X. Predator and Wildlife Mortalities
10X. Escape of Secondary Species
Final Score for Wild Fisheries = geometric mean of the four scores (Criterion 1-4).
Final Score for Aquaculture = geometric mean of the eight scores (Criterion 1-8).
Wild Fisheries: Final score > 3.2 and no individual criterion scores of "Red" or "Critical"
Wild Fisheries: Final score > 2.2 and neither Management factor scores (3.1 & 3.2) are Red (<= 2.2) and no more than one criterion score of Red and no Critical scores, and doesn't meet criteria for "Best Choice."
Aquaculture: Final score between 3.333 and 6.666, and/or one Red criterion, and no Critical scores
Wild Fisheries: Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) where current Seafood Watch ratings don't exist
Aquaculture: Species dependent: for tra/swai (pangasius/catfish)- Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) and Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) 2-star, 3-star, and 4-star; for whiteleg shrimp- Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) and Best Aquaculture Practices (BAP) 2-star, 3-star, and 4-star; and Naturland
Species may be overfished, there may be unacceptably high levels of bycatch, and/or the fish is caught or farmed in ways that have deleterious impacts on affected ecosystems.
Wild Fisheries: Final Score <=2.2, or one/both Management factor scores (3.1 & 3.2) are Red (<= 2.2), or two or more criteria score Red, or one or more Critical criteria scores.
Aquaculture: Final score between 0 and 3.333, or more than one Red criterion, or one or more Critical scores
Because effective management is an essential component of sustainable fisheries, Seafood Watch issues an Avoid recommendation for any fishery scoring Red for Management (Criterion 3).
The following certifications have been benchmarked against the Seafood Watch criteria for farmed and wild seafood as equivalent to at least a Seafood Watch 'Good Alternative' recommendation.
Catfish / Pangasius
Aquaculture Stewardship Council pangasius
Global Aquaculture Alliance BAP 2, 3, 4-star pangasius
Naturland farmed freshwater fish
Global Aquaculture Alliance BAP 2, 3, 4-star tilapia
Naturland farmed carp
Aquaculture Stewardship Council farmed bivalves
Canada Organic farmed shellfish
Friend of the Sea farmed mussels
Global Aquaculture Alliance BAP farmed mussels
Naturland farmed mussels
Canada Organic farmed shellfish
Aquaculture Stewardship Council shrimp
Global Aquaculture Alliance BAP 2, 3, 4-star shrimp
Naturland farmed shrimp