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Buying Seafood

There was a time not so long ago when many thought the ocean was so vast that it could absorb whatever was put into it and replenish whatever was taken from it. Today, we know how wrong those assumptions were.  At the same time, it is ever more apparent that the health of individuals and societies alike is inextricably linked to the health of food sources, including the ocean.  Consumers are beginning to demand food that not only tastes good but also is better for the environment.  Luckily, there are many resources available to seafood buyers to aid in sourcing healthy, sustainable seafood products.

Resources for Businesses

From volume to quality assurance and traceability requirements, the needs of business are vast and varied when it comes to sourcing seafood. Seafood Choices Alliance convenes networking events and facilitates a diverse program of forums for inquiry and dialogue in order to help cut through complexity, leverage knowledge exchange, and make smart connections that advance positive change. Our annual Seafood Summit is just one example of the way we bring people together to discuss the challenges currently facing the industry and innovative strategies for facing those challenges; other examples include business roundtables, issue-specific workshops and focused inquiry groups.

Seafood Choices also works with partners in business and conservation who are developing innovative tools that are helping the seafood industry with the daily challenge of sourcing sustainable seafood products. Below are just some of the new tools that are available.  For additional resources, please see our list of links.

Fisheries Information

For the large buyer, accurate and up-to-date information about the status of fish stocks and the environmental performance of fisheries is critical.  FishSource, a program of the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, is the premier tool for those seeking reliable information about fisheries around the world.

For the mid-size or small buyer, such as restaurants, a reference guide can be the easiest option for providing a quick picture of the status of your customers’ favorite seafood.  New guides for a number of markets in Europe are currently available, including:

Finding Suppliers of Sustainable Seafood

Early in 2009 , buyers in the U.S. will now have a free, easy-to-use tool for finding the most sustainable seafood suppliers.  FishChoice.com allows buyers to search and easily contact suppliers whose product is of interest, or, alternately, to forward contact information to distributors or procurement teams.

Eco-labeling & Certification of Seafood

Many eco-labels and certification programs exist or are in development for both farmed and wild seafood products. 

For aquaculture, the development of standards is underway by a variety of organizations, including the Global Aquaculture Alliance, GLOBALGAP and WWF through the WWF Aquaculture Dialogues. For more information about the current status of these programs, visit their Web sites.

For wild seafood, the most highly regarded environmental certification is the standard set by the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The MSC’s fishery certification program and seafood eco-label recognize and reward sustainable fishing, and are based on a stringent set of criteria. For more information about the standard or attaining Chain of Custody certification for use of the eco-label, visit www.msc.org.

Roadmap towards Sustainable Farmed Shrimp: A Guide for Retailers

Roadmap Towards Sustainable Farmed Shrimp: A Guide for Retailers” was created by Environmental Defense Fund, FishWise, and the New England Aquarium, in consultation with a broad number of conservation organizations as well as several seafood industry groups. The Roadmap is intended to educate retailers on how to work toward procuring sustainably farmed shrimp. It is not a set of standards or best practices, but may be used to complement existing corporate commitments to aquaculture certification or as an introductory document for those businesses not yet engaged in sourcing sustainably farmed shrimp.

Click here to download the guide.

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Resources for Consumers

Sustainability

Which wild fish are sustainably harvested? Is it okay to eat tuna?  What kind of salmon should I buy? Are there farmed fish that are environmentally responsible choices?  Seafood Choices Alliance works with conservation organizations around the world that are working to answer these and other important questions regarding the sustainability of our seafood supply.  Click on the links below for further information.

Health

Fish are considered by many nutritionists to be part of a healthy diet; providing a low fat source of protein and essential omega 3 fatty acids.  However, concerns do exist about the presence of toxins (e.g. mercury and PCBs) in some seafood – marine pollutants can build up in the flesh of fish, which is then consumed by people.  This can be of particular concern for certain groups of people, including children and pregnant women. There are a number of non-profit organizations and government agencies with websites that provide advice on recommended consumption levels of fish that consider both the health benefits and toxicity risks.  Click here to see a list of links to many of these sites.

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