I'm passionate about marine conservation, but I'm afraid me eating fishes is worsening overfishing. Should I stop eating fishes?
Yes and no! Seafood is a tricky beast when you’re talking about conservation, because it’s not all created (or fished, or farmed) equally. Fortunately, there are several institutions out there who have made it their goal to help the everyday, average person make responsible, ecologically-sound choices!
The Monterrey Bay Aquarium hosts Seafood Watch, which is basically the be-all-and-end-all of this sort of thing. They have a free app you can download onto your phone (so you can check while you’re doing your shopping), but the site I linked to is also pretty great.
For example, I typed in “salmon” in the search box because it was the first type of fish that came to my mind and it gave me this:
[Text of the image: “ Look for “Best Choice” pink salmon caught in Washington with reefnets, sockeye salmon caught in Washington during the early summer-run with reefnets, Chinook salmon farmed in New Zealand and salmon farmed in closed tanks. Most salmon caught on the U.S. West Coast and in British Columbia is a “Good Alternative.” However, some sources of Chinook and coho salmon from the Columbia River, Washington’s Puget Sound and British Columbia’s South Coast are on the “Avoid” list. We also recommend you look for eco-certified Alaska salmon. Say, “No, thanks” to farmed Atlantic salmon unless it’s from Maine or sold under the brand names Verlasso® (Chile) or Blue Circle® (Norway).”]
When you click on the “View Salmon Recommendations”, it takes you to a whole big list of which types of salmon are the most ecologically-responsible varieties, and even goes into detail about why it’s considered the best. Like, it breaks everything down. Please feel free to play with that site. Lots of people worked very hard on it.
The National Aquarium also has Seafood Smart, which is their answer to Seafood Watch and focuses mostly on aquaculture (”fish farming”) as an alternative to wild-caught seafood. They don’t have too much on their site as it’s a fairly new thing, but there’s a link to email the Seafood Smart Department with any questions you might have about aquaculture.
I also just found a site called FishChoice, which has profiles detailing commonly-eaten types of seafood–both fish and shellfish! They have very thorough profiles for each, which you can find here for regular fish and here for shellfish. If you go to “Sustainability Summary” for your chosen seafood, you’ll see little links along the side saying “Find Products”, which will take you to a list of seafood suppliers who sell that particular sort of fish, from the specified location and method of obtaining.
The downside of FishChoice is that it appears to be geared more towards retailers or restaurants, but, you as a consumer can still use that information.
How? Here’s how.
Go online and take an in-depth look at the places you buy your seafood from and see if you can find a list of their distributors (or just call them up on the phone and ask them, if you don’t mind phones). You can then cross-check with FishChoice and see if that distributor harvests or farms its seafood in a sustainable, responsible manner.
While you’re at the store, you can also look and see if you can find the Marine Stewardship Council’s logo on the packaging. MSC is a very trustworthy conservation group. Here’s their logo:
You can also look and see what other logos you can find on the packaging you have in front of you, research them, and make your decisions that way.
I know this sounds like a lot of homework for one person to do, and hopefully as more people come to understand how important this is, the process will become more streamlined and easier on the consumer. The big-name aquariums and institutions are hard at work making the tools available to the average person, but there’s still a lot of work to do.
Anyway, I hope this helped!