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Protecting our oceans with sustainable seafood production and consumption

March 28, 2011

Flickr / Dan Hershman

Industrial fishing practices are having serious detrimental effects on the world’s fish populations. Here in the Pacific Northwest, some top concerns include farmed salmon, the overfishing of tuna species and fishing practices like bottom trawling among others.

While there are a myriad of concerns related to seafood production, fish are a valuable global protein source that offers substantial health benefits.

So what is to be done?

As is common across much of our work, it’s an issue that needs to be addressed from both the production and consumption ends of the supply chain. Wild fish populations need to be sustainably harvested, farmed stocks sustainably raised and consumers need to shift their purchasing habits to support these practices.

Two of Reeve Consulting’s current projects have us examining sustainable seafood from both the production and consumption dimensions.

Influencing consumers with the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions
We’ve been learning more about the consumption end of things through a research project for the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions a group which, we were comforted to find out, believes seafood can be produced sustainably.

Flickr / twoblueday

A partnering of sixteen leading conservation organizations from the United States and Canada, the Conservation Alliance was formed to pursue a common vision for environmentally sustainable seafood. A main focus of the group is engaging businesses involved in fisheries and aquaculture to help realize the common vision, thereby combining the industry’s business knowledge and ability to innovate with the group’s conservation expertise.

The Conservation Alliance is interested in influencing consumer buying decisions and on their behalf, over the next few months, Reeve Consulting will be putting together case studies on some of North America’s top behaviour-change campaigns. We’ll be taking a closer look at tools, tactics and procedures that elicit action and successfully influence consumer demand.  The main goal of this project is to develop a strategy for creating an effective campaign that drives consumers to purchase more sustainable seafood in grocery stores and restaurants.

Sustainable Seafood Production in Ecuador
We’ve also been plugging into the production end of sustainable seafood through our colleague, Kevin McCarty, who is currently in Ecuador researching sustainable seafood production and certification. As part of this work he will be visiting two seafood farms to see sustainable practices in action.

Tropical Aquaculture Products Inc.

Both the farms Kevin will be visiting have been third-party certified. The first, Bio Centinela, a producer of farmed organic shrimp in Ecuador, holds a number of certifications, including Fair for Life fair trade status and the Soil Association Organic Standard. You can view some of the many photos and videos showing their operations here. Kevin will also be visiting the Ecuador operations of Tropical Aquaculture Products Inc. a producer of farmed Tilapia whose facilities are Best Aquaculture Practices Certified.

We’ll be using Kevin’s findings to enhance Reeve Consulting’s experience in sustainable seafood and better serve our clients in this field. We’re keen to learn more about his research and field experiences and will be sharing details here on our blog.

Sustainable Seafood Ecolabels: connecting production and consumption
Ecolabels serve an important purpose for both verifying and making clear to consumers products for which sustainable production practices were applied. There are a number of resources available to help people select sustainable seafood options – whether you’re at the grocery store, in a restaurant or responsible for a larger procurement program. We’ve listed a few helpful resources below.

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) – The MSC Chain of Custody standard for seafood traceability makes sure that the MSC label is only displayed on seafood from a MSC certified sustainable fishery. It means that consumers and seafood buyers can have confidence that the fish they are buying can be traced back to a fishery that meets the MSC environmental standard for sustainable fishing.

Fish Choice – Launced in 2009, fishchoice.com is an online portal for commercial seafood buyers that provides free, instant access to products and information necessary to source environmentally responsible seafood. Acting as a business-to-business matchmaking service, buyers can find seafood suppliers that catch, farm or process seafood products that meet the criteria or certifications of the partnering NGOs and distributors who have attained chain of custody certificates for MSC certified products.

SeaChoice – Canada’s most comprehensive sustainable seafood program formed by five of Canada’s most respected conservation organizations – Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Center, Living Oceans Society and Sierra Club BC (many of which are also a part of the Conservation Alliance). To help you with your seafood choices, SeaChoice has created helpful resources including a quick reference seafood guide available as a PDF, drop card or iphone app. They also have a business guide targeted at corporate seafood buyers.

Ecolabel Index – Read more about the various seafood ecolabels by looking them up in the Ecolabel Index database, the largest global directory of ecolabels currently tracking 377 ecolabels in 211 countries. We’ve discussed this resource on the Reeve Consulting blog before and you can read more about it and navigating the field of ecolabels here.

Additional resources:
Suzuki’s Top 10 Sustainable Seafood Picks, David Suzuki Foundation

Carting Away the Oceans, GreenPeace – includes an overview of the role of supermarkets in seafood supply chains and a rating of North American super markets regard for marine environments

Lifting the lid on the major canned tuna brands in Canada, GreenPeace

Review: Bottomfeeder: How to Eat Ethically in a World of Vanishing Seafood, Treehugger.com

Smart Seafood Guide 2011, Food & Water Watch

One Comment leave one →
  1. Albert F Reeve permalink
    May 18, 2011 5:17 pm

    I am very interested in good quality seafood. I have never seen packaging that tells me, where and when the seafood, packaged or not, was caught or harvested. This makes the quality of seafood at the point of purchase a pure gamble, subject only to smell.

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