Misleading Eco-labels on Seafood Muddy the Waters on Sustainable Fishing
Looking to buy a filet of fish for your evening meal but forgot your wallet guide to sustainable seafood? Well, don’t depend on the labels at the seafood counter or on the package to tell you if your dinner is environmentally-friendly or not, says Food & Water Watch in a new report on seafood labeling.
“People often think that if they buy seafood with an eco-label, it’s automatically a good choice,” said Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch. But it’s not so simple, according to Hauter.
Eco-labels and terms like “sustainably harvested” or “environmentally produced” might seem great to an environmentally conscientious consumer, but there’s no regulated definition of those terms or national standard for certifying a fishery or seafood producer as sustainable. The many competing, private eco-certification labels for seafood can simply add confusion at the seafood counter.
“Consumers aren’t told that these labels often have a ‘pay to play’ aspect,” said Marianne Cufone, director of Food & Water Watch’s fish program. “We need government standards,” Hauter explained. “And they need to be rigorous so consumers can make truly informed decisions about what seafood to buy.”
The consumer advocacy group is calling on the federal government must step up and offer consumers more meaningful ways to judge whether the seafood they buy is environmentally and socially responsible by: a) extending country of origin labeling to all seafood, not just packaged seafood; b) establishing USDA “certified organic” standards for seafood; and c) establishing a program to define and verify seafood labeling claims.
Read the report: De-Coding Seafood Eco-Labels: Why We Need Public Standards, which compares existing private certifications, including those of The Marine Stewardship Council, Global Aquaculture Alliance, and Friends of the Sea. In it, Food & Water Watch explains why private eco-labels are not adequate indicators of sustainable seafood choices for consumers, restaurants or retailers.
Take action: Choose your seafood well with Food & Water Watch’s Smart Seafood Guide