Changing the way people think about seafood

By Sarah Bertollo, Manager, Special Projects
Salmon was all over the news recently – after nearly 20 years of steady declines, Fraser River sockeye just experienced their biggest run in more than100 years.  On the Atlantic coast, cod have still not recovered.  As consumers, we’re left wondering: should we be eating cod and sockeye? Are there better choices?  With so much information out there, how do we make sense of it all?
Part of the confusion lies with the fact that there are many interpretations of both the term ‘sustainable seafood’ and the best path toward achieving sustainability of seafood in our oceans.  At WWF we believe that this means seafood that is fished or harvested in a way that enables fish to replenish at a natural rate rather than become depleted.   We also believe that the path to sustainability is one that involves change within the organizations and systems that are currently contributing to the depletion of fish stocks – from fishing boats on the water, to government quota setting, to retailers who sell the end product.  WWF is working to effect change ‘on and in the water,’ by improving fishing methods so they do not harm the marine environment and by spearheading the creation of ecosystem-based planning regimes.  To achieve this goal, we are working with governments, fisheries, other conservation organizations, retailers, and companies in the seafood supply chain to change harvesting and purchasing practices.
Sockeye salmon, British Columbia, Canada (c) Paul Nicklen/National Geographic Stock/WWF-Canada © Paul Nicklen/National Geographic Stock/WWF-Canada
As part of our overarching goal of changing the way we think about seafood, WWF has partnered with Canada’s largest grocery retailer, Loblaw Companies Limited, who has committed to providing consumers with 100 percent sustainable seafood, not only from wild-capture fisheries but also from aquaculture farms, by the end of 2013.  This commitment covers the entire store, from fresh fish on the fish counter to items where seafood is an ingredient, like omega-3 supplements in the drug aisle.  This commitment is critical to helping change the way people buy seafood.  As we witness declines in fish stocks and marine life around the world due in part to the increased market demand for seafood, working with multiple stakeholders is essential to ensuring the health of our oceans today and in the future.
Through my role at WWF, I have the opportunity to be working right at the nexus of marine conservation and business agendas.  I am working on bringing awareness to sustainable seafood issues which supports the work being done by our conservation team here at WWF.   In my next few blogs, I will be taking you through some of the challenges and complexities of sustainable seafood, distilling information and issues concerning the health of our oceans and highlighting signs of hope and progress.