Consumer demand for seafood has been depleting fish and shrimp populations for decades. The Marine Stewardship Council has helped protect marine animal populations by creating standards retailers and consumers can follow to choose wild-caught fish from better-managed fisheries. Wal-Mart and Whole Foods are among the retailers that sell MSC-Certified seafood.
"Farming" fish and shrimp has helped meet consumer demand, but at a cost. The fishmeal salmon eat, for example, is often loaded with dangerous PCBs. Farmed salmon can contract sealice, which can spread to wild salmon. Shrimp aquaculture can destroy the mangrove swamps that protect barrier islands and coastlines from hurricanes.
Now some retailers – including Whole Foods Market, Wal-Mart, and Wegman’s – are using their marketplace clout to demand seafood that’s farmed more sustainably. Their goal: protect sensitive marine habitats, reduce or ban antibiotics, treat waste water, and mimize or eliminate the use of toxic chemicals. Whole Foods will also require its suppliers to pass independent, third-party audits to ensure they are meeting sustainable seafood standards.
Here’s a good overview from the Washington Post.
Meanwhile, the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions is working with fishermen, retailers, environmental organizations and consumer groups to increase understanding of the nation’s fisheries and make more sustainable seafood available in the marketplace. As a result of its work with the Alliance, the Giant supermarket chain said it has recently started selling Pacific long-line cod, which is relatively abundant, and that it will stop selling shark, orange roughy and Chilean sea bass until their populations rebound.
USE YOUR PURSE: Most grocers are falling far short in offering shoppers sustainably raised or caught fish and shellfish. Don’t hesitate to let the manager at your favorite fish counter know you expect retailers to support sustainable seafood standards. And do your part by buying seafood that’s sustainably certified.