Around the world, many traditional fisheries are threatened with collapse due to unsustainable fishing practises and habitat destruction.

Some fisheries, however, remain healthy and productive due to successful management, responsible harvesting and advances in contained fish farming.

You can help support sustainable fisheries with the choices you make at the restaurant or the seafood counter.

The Sustainable Seafood Guide has been developed with consideration given to the following:

  • Status of wild populations: Native stocks should be abundant enough to sustain fisheries.
  • Fishing method: Hook and line, for example, is preferred to trawling; on-shore fish farming is safer than net pens in the open water; string and rack shellfish farming is preferred to ground culture.
  • Bycatch: Wasted catch of fish other than the target species.
  • Impact on natural habitat: Spawning grounds, sea bottom, kelp beds require protection.
  • Management initiatives: Which increase the odds of fisheries remaining sustainable.

900,000 Metric tons of wasted fish – 28% of the annual catch – that gets tossed overboard because they are not the desired species.

4 Kilograms of ‘bycatch’ discarded by Gulf Coast shrimpers for each kilo of shrimp kept.

Source: USA

Sustainable Seafood Guide

Better Choices

  • Abalone, farmed
  • Anchovies
  • Arctic Char (farmed)
  • Barramundi
  • Bluefish
  • Catfish (farmed)
  • Clams, mussels, oysters
  • Cod: Pacific (Alaska)
  • Crab: King, Snow, Tanner
  • Crawfish
  • Dogfish

  • Halibut (Pacific)
  • Herring (Atlantic)
  • Mackerel: Atlantic, Spanish
  • Mussels (Black, Green-lipped)
  • Octopus (Pacific)
  • Oysters (farmed)
  • Pacific Black Cod (sablefish)
  • Pacific Cod (pot or jig caught)
  • Pollack (Alaska)
  • Prawns (freshwater, US and Canada)
  • Prawns: Spot (Alaska and Canada)

  • Rockfish (Canada or US Pacific)
  • Sablefish/Black Cod (Canada and Alaska)
  • Salmon (Wild Alaskan)
  • Sardines (wild, Pacific)
  • Scallops (Bay – farmed)
  • Shrimp (US farmed)
  • Sturgeon (farmed)
  • Tilapia (US, Canada, Ecuador farmed)
  • Trout: Rainbow (US farmed)
  • Tuna: Albacore (troll, pole, and line)

Moderate Risk

  • Cod (Atlantic handline)
  • Cod (Pacific, North American)
  • Crab: Dungeness
  • Flounder: “Summer Flounder” Fluke
  • Lingcod
  • Lobster (Bahamas, North America)
  • Octopus (Atlantic)
  • Prawns (US farmed or wild)

  • Rainbow Trout (farmed)
  • Salmon, Chinook (wild from WA, OR, BC Canada)
  • Scallops (Sea, Bay wild)
  • Shrimp (domestic, trawl-caught)
  • Sole (Pacific)
  • Squid (Atlantic)
  • Swordfish (US)

Best to Avoid

  • Abalone
  • Atlantic Cod
  • Caviar (wild sturgeon)
  • Catfish (imported)
  • Crab (Asia and Russia)
  • Grouper
  • Halibut (Atlantic)
  • Hoki (Atlantic, New Zealand)
  • King Crab (Russia)
  • Lobster (Central America, Brazil)

  • Mahi mahi (imported)
  • Orange Roughy
  • Pollack (Canada trawl)
  • Prawns (imported, tiger)
  • Salmon (farmed)
  • Sardines (Atlantic)
  • Scrod
  • Seabass: Chilean
  • Shark: all species
  • Shrimp (imported)

  • Skate
  • Squid (imported longline)
  • Sturgeon (wild)
  • Swordfish (Atlantic)
  • Tilapia (China farmed)
  • Tuna: Albacore imported (except troll, pole, and line)
  • Tune: Bluefin, Yellowfin (longline except US), and Skipjack

Tips for Buying Sustainable Seafood

  • Try to choose shellfish grown on farms using racks, lines or nets which are suspended in the water. These methods minimize damage to bottom habitat during harvesting.
  • Striped Bass, a well-managed Atlantic coast species, can be used as a substitute for some depleted species, such as Black Sea Bass, Rock Cod, Red Snapper, Grouper and Roughy.
  • Farmed crawfish make an excellent substitute for Lobster, which, although plentiful are often harvested at minimum size before having a chance at reproduction.
  • Seafoods can be contaminated with mercury, PCB’s and other pollutants. Contaminants are mostly stored in fatty tissue, so grilling and broiling when cooking fish is recommended to allow fats and juices to drain away. Deep-frying can seal in toxins which may be stored in fat. In general, cooking fish, as opposed to eating it raw, can reduce contaminant levels by about 30%.
  • Ask your local seafood dealer or restaurateur about the source and catch-method of your seafood choices. Consumer concern is the best promoter of sustainable fisheries.

Balloons, Six-Pack Rings, Fishing Line

Don’t release balloons into the air. They will just end up as trash on the ground or in the water, where they are mistaken as food by fish, birds and sea mammals.

Plastic trash can injure and kill marine animals in our waters and along our shores. Plastic six-pack rings and discarded fishing line can entrap or strangle fish and waterfowl. Marine animals and seabirds can also mistake plastics for real food, ingest them and die.

Sea turtles, for example, can mistake balloons and plastic bags for jellyfish, a favorite food. For more information, call: Virginia Institute for Marine Science/Sea Grant Program at (804) 642-7171.

Online Sources

Where to Find Sustainably Harvested Seafood Online:

Vital Choice Seafood
Alaska Catch
Pelican Packers
Pacific Albacore

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