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Is Seafood Sustainable? Part III: How to Save the Ocean

Is Seafood Sustainable? Part III: How to Save the Ocean


This is Part III of a three-part series on the overfishing crisis and the sustainability of seafood. Read Parts I and II.

As outlined in the two previous posts in this series, public awareness of the global overfishing crisis is on the rise, and polls show a growing number of seafood consumers are thinking more carefully about how to make more sustainable choices, using sustainable seafood guides provided by environmental groups and asking seafood retailers for better labeling detailing where and how seafood is harvested.

But at the same time, global consumption of fish has hit record levels, and the oceans are paying the price as popular food species are threatened with extinction by overfishing and fishing-driven habitat loss.

Though threatened ocean species certainly benefit from consumers choosing to eat another, more plentiful species instead, if everyone on the planet decides tomorrow to eat, say, sardines — a plentiful species — instead of highly threatened tuna, but the world keeps consuming seafood at today’s unsustainable rate, eventually, sardines will be a threatened species, too.

Some believe aquaculture — fish farming — may be the answer to supplying global demand for one of the world’s healthiest protein source without devastating the ocean. Care2 blogger Cathryn Wellner examined the arguments for and against increased aquaculture as a solution to the problem of overfishing earlier this month.

Proponents of aquaculture argue that an increase in fish farming will both relieve pressure on wild fish populations and prevent damaging fishing methods like bottom trawling from destroying wild ocean habitats.

But in practice, large scale fish farms have often been shown to put ocean wildlife at risk — by polluting the water with concentrated areas of fish waste, by encouraging the proliferation, through overcrowding, of diseases that can later spread to wild populations of fish and by competing with wild fish populations for resources — farmed fish are generally fed fish meal, which is made from the same species of prey fish that predatory fish and sharks hunt in the wild.

Salmon for sale

A 2009 report by the environmental advocacy group Oceana found that the capture of prey species like anchovies and sardines for fish meal production is causing malnutrition and slowed growth among threatened and endangered predator species like Pacific salmon and blue fin tuna.

To help address these issues, several environmental organizations, including the World Wildlife Fund and Greenpeace, are now working with fish farmers to create and promote sustainable aquaculture practices.

But until aquaculture becomes more sustainable, those who care seriously about helping the world’s oceans recover from overfishing should do more than consider where seafood comes from, or how it was harvested. Consider eating seafood only rarely, or not at all.

Read Parts I and II of the Is Seafood Sustainable series.

Related Stories:

Is Seafood Sustainable Part I

Is Seafood Sustainable Part II

Aquaculture for a Hungry World

Read more: , , , , , , ,

Photo of fish shoal by Richard Wheeler, from Wikimedia Commons. Used under Creative Commons license. Photo of salmon at market by Jeremy Keith, from Wikimedia Commons. Used under Creative Commons license.

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2:43AM PST on Feb 13, 2013

Our food source does need time to recover

9:28AM PST on Feb 10, 2013

Raise the prices and tax seafood and fish eating individuals. This should definitely curb the demand,and hopefully with time,our fish stocks can recover. It's the only way.

4:12PM PST on Jan 28, 2013


2:18PM PDT on Sep 11, 2011

can the fox guard the henhouse?

2:53PM PDT on Jul 30, 2011

Ideally would be to stop eating fish, but that won't be easy mate.

9:36AM PDT on Jul 18, 2011

Interesting I don't eat much fish anyway.

11:07PM PDT on Jul 17, 2011

Something about Aquaculture that was not really covered well was the mini producer. If you look at production in these sizes the open water contamination is not there. has some excellent examples and there are permaculture groups and barrelponic back-yard units springing up all over. this and greenwater fish production has shown the ability to produce large volumes compared to rather minimal costs.

It is not a panacea. Some people have the genious idea of using invasive non-native species, a real genius even exported Apple Snails to southest asia to use for an escargot export crop. Those things crawled right out of the sysetm and made themselves unwelcome. Silly people.

Keep the unregulated exports out and locals can grow enough for home and small trade.

5:21PM PDT on Jul 17, 2011

The only way to truly cut the demand for fish and other resources is to address the massive over population of the Earth. Too little is being done to encourage negative population growth.

We can either address it now or the planet will address it for us in the form of massive famines.

5:17PM PDT on Jul 17, 2011

Excellent article. Thanks for sharing.

4:24PM PDT on Jul 17, 2011

As I understand the situation it is certain species of fish that are threatened, if this is the case then the answer is pretty straightforward, start eating those species that are not under threat and allow those that are to recover. In the final analysis it is the success of humanity, our numbers keep growing and growing, that puts the earth at risk. Until we can do something (I have no idea what) about the growing number of human beings we must feed ourselves as best we can.

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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