Sustainable Seafood Q&A

Sustainable Seafood Q&A


What is sustainable seafood?
Sustainable seafood is seafood that is sourced, either fished or farmed, that can maintain or increase production without jeopardizing the structure and function of source ecosystems.

Additional information on standards for farming and fishing methods can be found on Seafood Watch’s Standards web page. Researchers at Seafood Watch look at several key issues when evaluating the sustainability of fisheries and farms, including:


Impacts of the fishery on the species under assessment
Impacts on other capture species
Effectiveness of management
Impacts on the habitat and ecosystem


Availability of data
Impacts of effluent (pollution)
Impacts on habitat
Chemical Use
Risk of escapes impacting wild populations
Risk of disease, pathogen, and parasite interaction with wild populations
Source of stock – independence from wild fish stocks
Predator and wildlife mortalities
Escape of unintentionally introduced species
Why do seafood choices matter?

The seafood marketplace is driven by consumer choices. By purchasing sustainable seafood options, your purchasing power expresses your preference for sustainable items, and supports fisheries and farms that are best for the environment, relieving pressure on other fisheries that are not maintaining very well. With more than 75% of global fisheries reaching the status of over fished or fully exploited, making choices that help to preserve our oceans are more important than ever before. Using the seafood guide for your region means that you are making choices based on the best available information and supporting environmentally friendly fisheries and aquaculture operations. 

How do I know where my seafood comes from?

With so many options available to consumers at grocery stores and on restaurant menus, it is important to use available resources such as the Seafood Watch seafood guide or smart phone app to help make the best possible choice. Unprocessed seafood is typically labeled with relevant source information such as where the item is from, and whether it was farm raised or wild-caught. If seafood is not clearly labeled with source information or if a restaurant menu does not list the item’s origins, we recommend that you ask these questions:

Do you know where this seafood comes from?
Do you know if this seafood was farmed or wild-caught?
If it was wild-caught, do you know how it was caught?

If the business cannot answer your questions, we recommend that you choose something else to purchase. Please also consider expressing to the business the importance of this information to you as a consumer, and note that the sustainability of seafood options factors into your choices for meals. Ultimately as the consumer, your opinion matters to these businesses, and showing interest in sustainable options tells the business that demand exists for these products. 

Why are some farmed fish okay and others are not?

Some farmed options are determined to be best choices, while other farmed seafood are items to be avoided because not all farming methods are sustainable. Some types of fish farming, or aquaculture, have more of a negative impact on the environment than other methods. Environmental impacts depend on what type of fish is being farmed, what type of farming methods are used and where the farm itself is located. Additional information on preferable farming practices can be found on Seafood Watch’s Ocean Issues web page.