Conservation Conversations: Sustainable Seafood


I’d like to introduce you to a new series I’ve been working on called “Conservation Conversations”.  Each discussion, which will take place first on twitter, will focus on a particular marine conservation issue. I will then Storify and share selected responses here on the blog, allowing the conversation to continue.

The first conservation conversation focused on sustainable seafood. A new paper showed that many fisheries scientists and conservationists believe that the Marine Stewardship Council’s “sustainable seafood” certification process is too lenient, a topic I’ve written about before. I wanted to know how my twitter followers decide what seafood is sustainable. I also asked whether they choose to avoid seafood entirely or focus on sustainable seafood.

Conservation Conversations: Sustainable Seafood

Conservation conversations is a series of discussions about the marine environment on twitter. This edition (4/12/2013) of conservation conversations focused on attitudes towards sustainable seafood.

Storified by David Shiffman· Fri, Apr 12 2013 10:57:22

A report showing that Marine Stewardship Council "sustainable" seafood certifications are too lenient came out today…David Shiffman
How do you determine if your seafood is sustainable, and why do you use that system?David Shiffman
Do you fall on the "don’t eat seafood at all" or "eat and promote sustainable seafood" side of the debate? Why?David Shiffman
Several of my followers and I think the best approach is to eat sustainable seafood.
One of @SFriedScientist ‘s earlier blog posts on this subject summarizes my viewpoint on sustainable seafood nicely:David Shiffman
"if people who care about ocean conservation don’t eat seafood, the only ones who eat it will be people who don’t care about conservation"David Shiffman
Therefore, by buying and promoting sustainable seafood we can make changes from within the market. (loosely paraphrased)David Shiffman
@WhySharksMatter Eat and Promote, Because are well run fisheries that maintain healthy pops and fish vital in many diets. (Including mine!)Eric Heupel
@WhySharksMatter "Eat and promote" with Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app. Not sure how reliable it is, though.Amanda Massingill
@WhySharksMatter even though i rarely eat seafood (expensive) i fall on the "promote sustainable" side-any suggestions on how to promote?oceanlover
Several questions on what I mean by "promote" sustainable seafood. I mean tell a friend, ask at grocery store / restaurant, etc.David Shiffman
@WhySharksMatter I try to buy only sustainably caught seafood.Mathew David Clough
@WhySharksMatter We try to only buy SFW green species. Sometimes we cave and buy yellow. Never red. Never.Alexis Rudd
@WhySharksMatter example: I haven’t eaten shrimp for years (Have eaten local HI pond-farmed prawns).Alexis Rudd
@WhySharksMatter I eat and promote. I like seafood and also think industries are more likely to listen to potential customers.Katrin L
@WhySharksMatter eat seafood sustainably, done well it can have minimal environmental impact & positives for fishers & coastal communities!Debbie
@WhySharksMatter I buy sustainable seafood because we vote with our wallets. I also teach how to address these initiatives with the public.Jen
@WhySharksMatter making sustainable choices is something everyone can do and it does make a difference.Jillian Morris
@RunSqueezyRun @WhySharksMatter Being certain IS tough, but possible – & important! Know your fishermen = support ecosystems & families. :)Tele Aadsen
Others believe that not eating seafood at all is the best way to help the oceans. 
@WhySharksMatter I stopped eating seafood years and years ago when I found out how overfished tuna are. Seemed easier to just avoid it all.Corinna Bechko
@WhySharksMatter The "eat and promote sustainable seafood" approach is too complicated/confusing, better to cut it out all together.dmk
@WhySharksMatter Haven’t eaten any seafood since 1986, one year after I quit eating other meat. Multiple reasons, incl personal ethics.Kieran Mulvaney
@WhySharksMatter As young anti-whaling activist, whaling officials would say, "But you eat meat/fish." So I stopped. Ended that argument.Kieran Mulvaney
@WhySharksMatter Why not leave the seafood to the sea creatures who depend on them for survival…they don’t have grocery stores afterall.WildEarth Guardians
@WhySharksMatter I fall into the don’t eat seafood at all – but for those around me I promote/suggest sustainable options (@SeafoodWatch )Chanel Hason
@WhySharksMatter I don’t eat seafood, but promote sustainable seafood. Can’t expect everyone to be as passionate as me, realistically.Ben Hardwidge
@WhySharksMatter @SeafoodWatch The easiest and only effective strategy is to not eat fish #simpleJohn Bruno
@WhySharksMatter Dont eat at all because "sustainable seafood" is as much a scam as most "organic" foodJohn Bruno
Those of you who don’t eat seafood at all, is your goal to reduce consumption (one person less buying it)? To convince others? Symbolism?David Shiffman
@WhySharksMatter Reduction of guilt as well as reduced consumption, I suppose. It’s not my direct fault now if something is overfished!Corinna Bechko
Several followers raised concerns about whether they can be sure if seafood has been sustainably caught, and over the limited definitions of “sustainable”
@WhySharksMatter I’d love to eat sustainable seafood but I can’t trust it to be labeled properly, like a lot of things in the food industry.D.C.
@WhySharksMatter I used to seek out sustainable seafood. Now I think it’s best to avoid altogether. So difficult to make the right choices.Louise Hill
@recentlyvacated @WhySharksMatter why do people think this? very frustrating. "sustainable seafood" does not mean harvest has min impact!John Bruno
@recentlyvacated @WhySharksMatter most labeling only about sustainability of the fishery, not ecosystem effects, eg bycatch, habitat lossJohn Bruno
@JohnFBruno @WhySharksMatter seafood choices need to be based on solid understanding of the production or harvest process – no ironclad ruleAmy Freitag
@bgrassbluecrab @WhySharksMatter but realistically, a consumer can/will never know truth about production or harvest of what they eatJohn Bruno
@WhySharksMatter your thread is depressing me. Bummed to see how many folks are so confused about #seafood choices that they stop eating itJonathan Gonzalez
@WhySharksMatter This week, I saw articles claiming "sustailable" seafood ratings are too strong and hurt fisherman, AND not strong enough.Jacquelyn Gill
I also asked what system people use to determine if their seafood is sustainable. 
@manshark @WhySharksMatter I do this too. I recommend @seafoodwatch to folks who ask (which happened a lot when I worked with marine mammalsCorinna Bechko
@WhySharksMatter I use Seafood Watch but every time I pull out the app my husband groans, so I guess I’m doing a bad job of promoting.wombatarama
@WhySharksMatter I usually go w/@SeafoodWatch since it’s accessible but I also read fisheries studies and share what I learn from them.Elaine Brewer
@WhySharksMatter @SeafoodWatch is the best! You can download @MontereyAq’s app here:…
@WhySharksMatter @SeafoodWatch, absolutely! Our sustainable seafood guides are created with Monterey.Jen
@acmassingill @WhySharksMatter @seafoodwatch recommendations are all science-based. Learn more: Aquarium
If you eat / promote sustainable seafood, how do you determine what is sustainable? I’ve seen several @SeafoodWatch shout-outs. Others?David Shiffman
@WhySharksMatter since 2006 Magnuson revisions, all US #fisheries have scientific catch limits. I’d eat anything federally managed.Scott Crosson
@WhySharksMatter I prefer FishWatch because it is the latest info. @SeafoodWatch seems to always be behind the curveJonathan Gonzalez
@WhySharksMatter, Funny we’ve never talked @ this before. I think the only "sustainable" seafood is farmed. We need better systems though.Sean O’Hanlon, MSE
@WhySharksMatter I try to eat sustainably in all areas, and use this for fish/seafood: fishonline.orgDavid Craven
@NWcetaceans @whysharksmatter I have given out many a @mcsuk sustainable fish guide.Mathew David Clough
@WhySharksMatter @seafoodwatch @mcsuk do the guide for the UK.Mathew David Clough
@WhySharksMatter @ilovebluesea is also a great resource for making better sustainable seafood
@WhySharksMatter We only buy tuna that’s caught with a pole and line. Not sure about sustainability, but there’s hopefully no bycatch.christian.
@WhySharksMatter if I eat seafood, it’s usually what I can catch myself because I’m broke, and I know exactly where it’s coming from.ellen
@elgiddens @WhySharksMatter We do the same thing here in #Bimini. #sustainable #species and we know where it is coming from!Jillian Morris
@WhySharksMatter I love seafood, but I try to limit myself to what I can catch. Fish in my pic was dinner.Kate McClellan
@kamcclellan @WhySharksMatter. Yeah, I’ve got so much in my freezer that we’ve caught that economically it doesn’t make sense for us to buy.Scott Crosson
Stay tuned for more conservation conversations!