A Safe Selection: Sustainable Seafood Programs

July 14, 2010

Efforts to create sustainable seafood programs in North America have been highlighted of late with the impact of the oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico.

Efforts to create sustainable seafood programs in North America have been highlighted of late with the impact of the oil spill crisis in the Gulf of Mexico. A handful of retailers looking toward developing their own sustainable missions may well look toward a long-standing project, Seafood Watch, supported by the Monterey Bay Aquarium. 

The Seafood Watch program provides retailers, restaurants and consumers with a path to choosing healthy sustainable seafood. Reports such as “The Best of the Best” are updated to feature clear choices. This past month’s selections included Albacore Tuna (troll- or pole-caught, from the U.S. or British Columbia), Freshwater Coho Salmon (farmed in tank systems, from the U.S.), Mussels (farmed), Oysters (farmed), Pacific Sardines (wild-caught), Rainbow Trout (farmed), and Salmon (wild-caught, from Alaska). By incorporating this program into retail and restaurant operations, consumer education and loyalty can be better achieved.

Additionally, the program offers other healthy “best choices,” which are low in contaminants and provide a smaller amount of omega-3s. Combining both conservation and public health research, the Monterey Bay Aquarium also developed its "Super Green" seafood list highlighting selections that are both good for human health and do not harm the oceans. The Super Green list highlights products that are currently on the Seafood Watch "Best Choices" list, are low in environmental contaminants and are good sources of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

Grocers can become business partners of the program, joining the ranks of such stores as the Seattle, WA-based PCC Natural Markets, Brooklyn-based Foragers Market or MOM’s Organic Market in Rockville, MD, which exclusively sells fish rated "Best Choice" by FishWise and Monterey Bay Aquarium's Seafood Watch program.

Seafood Watch creates recommendations based on market information collected from retailers and restaurants nationwide about the items they sell. The Seafood Watch research team gathers information about the most popular seafood items, imported and domestic, and then evaluates it using established sustainability criteria. A report is completed for each item and circulated to outside experts for review and critique. At the conclusion of this process, a final seafood report, complete with recommendations, is posted on The Seafood Watch website.

Seafood Watch provides an assortment of tools for retailers and consumers, from downloadable pocket guides (regionally developed and most recently updated in January), to mobile iPhone apps that make daily updates a snap for seafood departments. Training videos, alternative choices for fish on the “avoid” list, staff fact cards, as well as a guide to Sustainable Seafood Business Practices, are available to assist in creating and implementing a successful program. Visit www.seafoodwatch.org to learn more about how the program can work for your store and your customers.