Sustainable seafood? The answer to a seafood lover's dilemma

Being landlocked as I am in Toronto, I unfortunately don’t have the daily pleasure of enjoying the sights, sounds, and smells of our oceans that my colleagues can take advantage of in our offices on the east, west and even north coasts of Canada.
That being said, I am a huge fan of our oceans – and in particular, what comes out of them… Yes, I am a seafood lover! From fish to bivalves to crustaceans, I enjoy the bounty that comes from our oceans. And I’m not the only one! About 1 billion people around the world depend on seafood as their primary source of protein; in addition, 200 million people depend on fishing for their livelihood.

Jarmila seafood
Photo credit: Michael Lee

At the same time though, many fisheries are in grave trouble: according to a 2010 Food and Agriculture Organization report, 85 per cent of the world’s fisheries are either fully exploited, over exploited, depleted, or recovering from depletion; some fishing practices damage sensitive marine habitats; and bycatch (animals caught accidentally in fishing gear intended for other species) is an issue in many fisheries.
All this is hard to reconcile with my appreciation and enjoyment of seafood – it’s so good, but by eating seafood, am I causing further harm to our oceans? Fortunately, there is hope!
© Neil McDaniel / WWF-Canada
© Neil McDaniel / WWF-Canada

There are ways to fish sustainably and produce farmed seafood responsibly; the Marine Stewardship Council and Aquaculture Stewardship Council provide rigorous environmental standards against which wild capture fisheries and aquaculture operations can be assessed, resulting in certification that allows consumers, retailers, restaurateurs, etc. to choose seafood that has been sustainably caught or responsibly farmed.
Fishing boats in Malpeque, PEI. Photo Credit:   Michael Lee
Fishing boats in Malpeque, PEI. Photo Credit: Michael Lee

And in Canada, Loblaw , our biggest grocery retailer, has committed to procuring 100% of its seafood from sustainable sources! That means whether I’m cooking at home or dining out, there are lots of sustainable choices available – which is welcome news to this seafood lover!