Thursday, June 17, 2010

Sustainable Seafood Series #2: SeaChoice; healthy choices, healthy oceans

SeaChoice is a national program that helps Canadian consumers and businesses make the most ocean-friendly seafood choices to support the long-term health of marine ecosystems and coastal communities. Working with five Canadian conservation organizations—Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Center, Living Ocean Society and Sierra Club British Columbia - SeaChoice acts as Canada'sone-stop resource for scientific information, business guidance, and consumer resources on seafood sustainability.

This organization accesses the sustainability of domestic and imported seafood products, works to increase awareness about the role of seafood in achieving healthy oceans and help identify sources of sustainable seafood. Sustainability criteria, based on biological, ecological and management factors are used to rank seafood into their "Best Choice" list.

But what does sustainable seafood mean? Sustainable seafood is fish or shellfish caught or farmed in a manner that can be sustained over the long-term without compromising the health of marine ecosystems

Environmentally sustainable wild fisheries are those that minimize habitat damage, have low levels of by-catch or discards of non-target species, are well managed and target healthy populations. Environmentally sustainable aquaculture (or farmed seafood) minimizes the use of marine resources for feed, poses low risks to wild stocks , escapes or disease and parasite transfer, is well managed and creates little pollution or habitat impact. Rob Johnson, Atlantic Coordinator with SeaChoice counsels that, "Seafood sustainability is more than just eco-labels." SeaChoice works to bring information to the consumer about sustainable seafood options of both wild and farmed seafood.
Here are some things to think about when purchasing wild seafood:
  • Vulnerability of species due to fishing pressure - long living fish with low numbers of offspring are vulnerable to fishing pressure as they take longer than other species to replenish their population.
  • Abundance of the population - making sure removal rates are not higher than the population is capable of replacing. If so, the species is being overfished.
  • Bycatch - when birds, sharks, turtles and other marine life that are not intended to be harvested, are caught and discarded.
  • Habitat Impact - how much damage is the fishing gear causing to the ocean environment and if the fishing method is causing harm to other marine life in the area.
  • Effective management - means long-term health takes precedence over short term economic benefits.

Here are some things to think about when purchasing farmed seafood:

  • Marine resources used in feed - farming certain species of fish and shellfish requires that other species are used in their feed. In some cases, more wild fish is used in feed than what is produces. Seafood raised on plant- based diets are better choices.
  • Risk of escapes - when farmed fish escape, they can inter-breed with wild stocks or compete or food, spawning habitat and other resources.
  • Disease and parasite transfer - aquaculture systems that discharge untreated waste may release disease and parasites to wild stocks.
  • Risk of pollution - aquaculture systems can pollute the surrounding ecosystem, harming marine and freshwater habitats. Situating operations away from ecologically sensitive habitats is important.
  • Effective management - ensuring the regulations and management structures necessary to effetely control risks to ecosystems.

Purchasing from operators that favour sustainable seafood help ensure there will be healthy, delicious seafood for years to come. SeaChoice is committed to developing working partnerships with companies to broaden their sustainable seafood offerings through the implementation of six steps of the Common Vision for Environmentally Responsible Seafood. When determining which seafood to purchase - either at the grocery store or at a restaurant, you can refer to Canada's Guide to Sustainable Seafood to make the right, responsible choice as a consumer.

Choosing sustainable seafood is a simple and effective action that you can take every time you eat at a restaurant or buy seafood at the grocery store. According to Rob Johnson, consumers should ask these three basic questions at the grocer, market, or restaurant: WHAT type of seafood is it? WHERE is it from? HOW was it caught or farmed? For a list of restaurants, producers and grocers who offer sustainable seafood in Halifax, check out The Coast's Guide to Sustainable Seafood in Halifax.

For further reading, check out The Coast's article on making sustainable seafood a local option in Local catch key to fisheries. Also of interest is Your Choice Halifax. Created by a group of Dal Marine Biology students, YCH uses SeaChoice as the baseline for sustainability, and helps identify where to find sustainable seafood in HRM.

1 comment:

Bill Wall said...

These guys recently partnered with Canada's largest sushi company, Bento Nouveau.

Check out our blog post about it!