Posted on May 18, 2011 - by

A Sea of Questions: The FRESH Sustainable Seafood Series

So you carefully buy eco-friendly steaks and strawberries, but when it comes to seafood, the waters get a bit cloudy. Farmed or wild salmon? How about farmed fish from a closed aquaponic system? Are cod, haddock and whiting the same or different fish? What does it mean when scallops come from a “day boat”?

Given the myriad questions surrounding our fish, FRESH is proud to announce a new series on sustainable seafood. With help from our partners in the seafood world, we will be publishing a series of blog posts with information and practical tips to help you answer these questions and more. We’ll also be organizing campaigns so you can participate in the fight to protect our oceans and seafood resources.

At FRESH, we started thinking seriously about seafood when we realized lots of eco-savvy people are confused about these issues. Take, for instance, restaurant offerings. Have you ever eaten at a restaurant that touted their locally sourced organic pork and fingerling potatoes while listing tuna on the menu? Unfortunately, even conscientious restaurants sometimes turn a blind eye when it comes to sourcing environmentally-friendly fish. Keeping up with the latest watch lists can be an enormous challenge for time-strapped chefs, and it is no easier for regular consumers.

Why is it so much more difficult to find sustainable sources for seafood compared to land-based meats and vegetables? Quipped science reporter Eric Vance,“Counting fish is just as easy as counting trees—except the fish are invisible and move.” Certifying seafood stocks as sustainable involves a certain amount of guesswork and faith. Unlike a herd of cattle, fish migrate from ocean to ocean, are harvested by fishermen in many countries, and battle ever-changing environmental threats. That means the health of a fish population is constantly in flux, and evaluating its sustainability requires knowledge on its origin and how it was caught—a tall order!

Luckily, we’re going to help you navigate these murky waters. Over the next few weeks, FRESH will give you background information on why our seafood stocks are in peril, and what choices you can make to improve your health and the health of the planet. To kick start our series, we’ve compiled a handy list of tools that can be used to help decide what fish to purchase. We’ve also included links to major ocean watch groups and aquariums that provide resources for consumers. Check it out!

If you have an issue that you’d like to see covered, drop a line. If you are involved in the sustainable seafood realm and would like to be a guest writer, we’d love to hear from you too. You can leave tips and comments below, or send them to



We'd love to hear yours!

  1. Ronnie Ortiz said:

    Def’ interested in this! After all the “recent” pollution (w/ BP and Japan’s nuke facility much less) I’m leaning towards farm raised (not that it’s ideal) and seafood from far northern waters, local or way down in the southern hemisphere. Pollution just sucks and missing out on eating fish does too. Thanks for the efforts Fresh peeps!

  2. Evz said:

    First, let me say thank you for this thoughtful compilation of resources to help people shop more sustainably, and make more informed choices when buying fish and shellfish. That is important and valuable!

    Let me also say, though, that for those concerned with the escalating problems facing the global ocean (rapid decline of biodiversity/ massive extinctions & species declines, pollution, acidification, rising ocean temps, etc), eating vegan or mostly-vegan is not only the most effective but the EASIEST way to avoid making these devastating problems even worse. It may be possible, more or less, with intensive continual research, to eat fish & shellfish in a somewhat sustainable way; but for me, the cost/ benefit analysis was unmistakable: it’s about 100x easier to just eat something else… Unless you go catch it yourself, from water you’ve researched that day as to pollutants, too many times (a) you’re not buying what you think you are, (b) it wasn’t obtained the way you think it was, or (c) data has changed for the worse regarding that species(or water)since last you checked… given modern fishing practices & ocean issues, imo there’s virtually no way to ensure that I’m not making a bad problem worse, if I eat seafood on a regular basis.

    I know not everyone will agree, and that’s ok– humans are diverse– but I wanted to throw it out there: seafood is optional! The most sustainable idea for seafood, for inland people residing in a developed country with many many many other local/ plant-based food options, is simply not to eat it!… I used to be the worlds biggest seafood fan; but after extensive reading & research, I finally concluded that, for me, the risks (tremendous environmental & ecological degradation) far outweigh the benefits (momentary taste sensations on my tongue).

    Eating vegan is much easier and tastier than I ever expected, and I can’t imagine going back to eating in such a way that I have to slog through all the incomplete, constantly changing data to find the ‘not as bad’ seafood. It is so easy to just eat something else!

    Watching ‘End of the Line’ (available on Netflix) and reading ‘The World is Blue’ (Sylvia Earle) really crystallized the issues, for me, and are highly recommended for anyone concerned about seafood & sustainability.

    Thanks for all you do, and for considering my point of view. The ‘Fresh’ team is fabulous, and I look forward to future blog posts!


  3. Crystal Cun said:

    Thanks Evz and Ronnie for the FRESH support! And yes, I do recognize that eating seafood and meat are entirely optional, and these days, it’s often easier to simply eat something else, rather than try to answer a dozen questions before purchasing something. Personally, I have cut my meat consumption drastically since learning about the massive pollution and inefficiencies that accompany meat production, but not everyone is willing to do that. So, if people are going to eat meat, they should at least be knowledgeable about the issues and what they’re consuming. Cheers, CC

  4. Evz said:

    Agreed. Knowledge is power, right?! An informed consumer base is key, when it comes to ethical food choices– whatever diet one chooses to follow. :-)