What is Sustainability in Seafood?
This is a more complicated question than you might think. But the good news is that both businesses and consumers—you—can play a role in maintaining the sustainability of our ocean resources, simply by being informed.
The sustainable seafood movement began when scientists, conservationists and leaders in the seafood industry realized that human demand for seafood was having an impact on the long-term viability of fish, one of the world’s most widely traded and valuable wildlife commodities. Seafood sustainability has gained increasing momentum in recent years; beginning with a committed few, it now is fueled by the energy of many leaders from across fishing and fish-farming industries, seafood businesses, media and conservation groups.The word sustainable means different things to different people. Essentially, it is the capacity to endure and maintain. Sustainability is crucial in maintaining a long and healthy future for marine life and society, as more than one billion people rely on seafood for their primary source of animal protein and several hundred million more depend on fish or shellfish as their main source of income.
So what is sustainable seafood? Many organizations look to the following guidelines for fish and shellfish, adapted from the Marine Stewardship Council’s criteria. They should be:
- from a healthy population
- caught or farmed using methods that don’t harm marine life, and
- from fisheries or farms that are responsibly managed.
Improvements in how seafood reaches our tables have primarily focused around these core environmental aspects of its production. More recently, the sustainable seafood movement has widened its scope to more fully consider the social and economic concerns relating to a sustainable supply of seafood as well as wider environmental concerns linked to climate change.
Ecolabeling programs evaluate the production process with set environmental standards by an independent third party. Should the process fulfill the specific requirements, the producer or marketer may purchase a license to use an ecolabel in its marketing. This label allows the consumer to know that the product was produced sustainably. Labeling is not only an effective regulatory tool in encouraging consumers to make environmentally friendly choices, but it also provides a financial benefit to producers. In 1996 the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) implemented the first certification program. Since then, they have not only made a distinct effort to maintain the health of ecosystems, but they have also contributed to more financial success for producers. For instance, once the American Albacore Fishing Association had its tuna certified to the MSC standard, they were able to obtain premium prices for their product. For the small fishing community in Bonita, California, certification allowed them to sell direct, as opposed to depending on the instability on the dock. They were able to make a profit of $2,260 rather than $1,700 per tonne. More companies and organizations are choosing to use environmentally sustainable production, such as ecolabeling, to gain a greater market share and higher profits.
Seven Seas International is a strong supporter of ecolabeling. We offer both the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) eco-labels for most of our products. It is our goal to only offer MSC and ASC products (where possible) to our customers by 2014.
Seven Seas International USA