Our Commitment to Sustainable Seafood

Sustainability is a goal toward which we are constantly striving. It inspires our practices and informs our purchasing decisions, and perhaps this is most readily apparent in our selection of seafood. That’s because seafood sustainability is a HUGE issue. Fisheries around the world have been over-fished, poorly managed, and in many cases completely depleted and unless we trust our suppliers to follow certain standards, there’s no way to tell if our produces were raised or caught unethically! Thankfully, there’s the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch.

The Seafood Watch has taken on the responsibility of creating standards and evaluating fisheries and fish farms (called “aquaculture”) to determine the environmental impact of their practices and subsequently determine how sustainable each operation and each species is. They’ve asked the question, “What would make any given seafood sustainable?” and this is their answer: seafood that is fished or farmed in ways that have minimal impact on ocean health and ensure the availability of seafood for future generations. Doesn’t that sound reasonable? Doesn’t that sound a standard to which we should hold ALL seafood?

The problem is that lots of seafood operations around the world don’t agree, or at least choose to operate like they don’t agree, and this has been going on a long time. Unsustainable industrial-scale fishing has been around since the late 1800s and as you might imagine, seafood populations have declined ever since. Practices such as bottom trawling and dredging are particularly detrimental to wild-caught seafood sustainability because they harvest animals which weren’t intended to be caught (referred to as “bycatch”) and also cause damage to seabed habitats. However, farm-raised seafood has challenges of its own as well; many farmed species are grown in environmentally-sensitive areas, such as coasts, and can be terribly destructive either because the habitat was demolished in order to make room for the farm or because of the pollution caused by poorly managed farms.

These practices are all too common, but thankfully, there are more sustainable methods producers can use for both wild-caught and farmed seafood! And it’s these kinds of methods Seafood Watch is looking at when they make their evaluations.

To evaluate seafood and seafood operations, the Seafood Watch does A LOT of research and asks A LOT of questions. They read reports, journals, and papers and talk to experts, collect data and analyze it, then apply their high standards to the data and information they’ve collected to make final decisions on sustainability. Thankfully, they also go a step further and turn those decisions into recommendations for us! We have copies of their Northeast Consumer Guide available for everyone to take- and we do recommend you pick one up if you haven’t already. Small enough to fit in your wallet, it clearly lists which seafood items are currently:

the best choices: they’re well managed, little harm to habitats or other wildlife is caused;
good alternatives: there are some concerns about how they’re caught or raised;
ones to avoid: they’re overfished and /or harm to the environment and other wildlife is caused.

Because we’re committed to sourcing seafood in the most environmentally respectful way, we’ve chosen to only purchase seafood which falls within the standards of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch. We trust them to show us the best choices and consequently, you can trust the seafood we have on our shelves!