Navigating Seafood Sustainability
By Shari Steinbach, MS RDN, RDBA Contributing Editor
Health experts understand the nutritional importance of promoting the consumption of seafood, but retail dietitians also know that consumers have seafood questions that pertain to more than dietary recommendations. Shoppers today want to know where the seafood they are purchasing has come from, if sustainable practices were used and if farmed seafood is safe. Unfortunately, perceptions about seafood farming are not keeping pace with the positive state of aquaculture science. It’s important to become knowledgeable about the specific sourcing practices and sustainability policies your retailer has in place so you can share this information with customers to help build their confidence in the seafood department. The Seafood Nutrition Partnership provides the following insights to assist with understanding sustainable seafood practices and options:
Did you know?
- Seventy percent of the planet is ocean but only 2% of our food supply comes from the ocean. We must, however, catch fish in sustainable ways and grow fish responsibly to ensure sustainability.
- Wild seafood is harvested from open waters across the world and can be sustainable if not overfished. Farmed seafood now makes up half of the seafood available globally and includes salmon, sea bass, shrimp, steelhead trout, and tilapia. Sustainable seafood relies on both options.
- The U.S. has the best managed wild caught fisheries in the world managed by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries, and with certification programs such as, Marine Stewardship Council and Seafood Watch, there are many programs to help ensure sustainable practices along with freshness and quality.
- Ninety percent of retailers in the U.S. have a sustainable seafood policy in place.
Facts about Seafood Farming (Aquaculture):
- Siting of the farm is key – planning considerations, water current flows, data needs, data analysis, and management are essential.
- Farmed fish can help with the recovery of natural fish populations, improve indigenous food supplies and increase the diversity and affordability of available seafood products.
- Farming fish, shellfish and even seaweed helps produce food while restoring habitats, replenishing wild stocks, and rebuilding populations of threatened and endangered species.
- Food safety and quality can be closely controlled and it is easy to trace the origin of farmed raised seafood.
- A controlled environment (water, feed, spacing) allow for improved fish health.
- Farmed seafood certification programs include Best Aquaculture Practices and the Aquaculture Stewardship Council.
Retail dietitians can also support sustainable seafood by:
- Providing new recipes for different types of seafood
- Share how easy it is to steam mussels
- Consider recipes for “white flaky fish” rather than a specific type of fish
- Talking about responsible sourcing policies
- Pointing out certifications on the label
- Providing education on seafood nutrition and reminding shoppers that wild and farmed both count toward the consumption goal of two times per week.
For more educational resources download the Seafood Nutrition RDN Toolkit. Also,
FishWatch.gov has good information and resources for consumers to learn about different species – both wild and farmed.