Sustainable Fish and Seafood: What You Need to Know

Emily Duerr, RDN

by | Updated: December 9th, 2019 | Read time: 2 minutes

We already know the benefits of eating fish and seafood. From protein to omega-3 fatty acids to vitamins (specifically B vitamins, vitamin A, and vitamin D), seafood provides an array of important nutrients, which contribute to brain, eye and muscle development, as well as the prevention of heart disease.

In fact, the 2015-2020 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend that the general population consume at least 8 ounces of a variety of seafood—including fish and shellfish—per week. (Related reading: Do I *have* to eat fish for omega-3 healthy fats?)

But these days, there is a growing concern (and rightly so) about the ethical, economic and environmental impact of the food we consume. One solution? Choose sustainably caught or farmed fish and shellfish!

Group of boats gathered together for sustainable fishing

What is sustainably sourced seafood?

We hear the word “sustainable” more and more lately, often referring to farming. But what does it mean in terms of the seafood that you eat? Sustainably sourced means that the fish and shellfish you purchase, whether it’s wild-captured or farm-raised, has minimal environmental and social impact, therefore protecting the longevity of this global food source.

Why is it important to choose sustainable seafood?

Overfishing, which occurs when fish are caught faster than their population can replenish, is a big threat to the delicate balance of ocean ecosystems. Bycatch, the incidental capture of non-target species when fishing, is also a major concern. According to the Word Wildlife Fund, millions of sharks and hundreds of thousands of marine mammals, birds, and turtles are entangled, ensnared and captured each year, including endangered and protected species.

Not only do unsustainable seafood practices threaten the environment, but they also pose a risk to global food security and the millions of people who depend on fishing for a living. The World Wild Life Fund notes that over half of the world relies on fish as a source of protein; the Ocean Conservancy notes that over 1.7 million jobs in the United States alone depend on the operation of fisheries.

How do I know my seafood is farmed or fished responsibly?

Do your research! Here are a few science-based resources to get you started on your sustainable seafood journey:

  • NOAA’s Fish Watch: Simply enter a fish to find out where it’s sourced and whether or not it’s fished sustainably.
  • Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch App: Get seafood recommendations, find restaurants and access conservation reports.
  • The Marine Stewardship Council’s blue MSC label, which signifies that the fish is wild or the seafood is sourced from a fishery that adheres to MSC’s stringent requirements for sustainable fishing.

Whether you’re at your favorite sushi place or cooking a delicious healthy fish recipe at home, remember that choosing sustainable seafood can help protect the environment, the global food supply, and millions of jobs!