Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Ecolabeling for better seafood

While many readers may be familiar with the Marine Stewardship Council seafood ecolabeling program, they may not be aware that there are nearly two dozen such certification programs for seafood worldwide. Are all those programs necessary?

A school of bluefin tuna. Photo: Brian Skerry

The Aquarium's Dr. Michael Tlusty asked the important question of whether improvement in the environmental impact of seafood production is best achieved by adhering to a single one of these programs or multiple certification programs. He recently published his theory in the journal Fish and Fisheries, explaining how multiple certifications can significantly reduce the seafood industries’ negative environmental impacts. That's compared to if only a single certification is followed. The use of multiple standards provides shorter, more reachable steps toward a high-level standard, and also allows a greater proportion of the industry to make improvements, thus increasing overall sustainability.

In our ongoing work on improving the quality and quantity of seafood, Dr Tlusty has also figured out how to increase aquaculture production by 60 percent without adding more farms. His work, published in the open access journal Sustainability, found that instead of growing a species such as rainbow trout to a large 2-pound size, if farmers grew their fish smaller, they would more than double the total biomass of fish produced. Growing smaller fish would also help solve another environmental problem of aquaculture – it would reduce the amount of fish meal (from wild species harvested just for this purpose) needed to make the aquaculture feed. Smaller animals grow more efficiently than larger ones, and thus need less feed. This research was highlighted at the most recent Celebrate Seafood Dinner Series, where we featured small trout (smoked, served with a jerk sauce over jicama salad... mmmm!).

The Aquarium is putting Dr. Tlusty's theories into action by helping many of the leading certification programs to make sure their programs are rigorous in requiring environmental improvements. Our conservation experts also offer Sustainable Seafood Advisory Services to some of the world's largest seafood retailers and suppliers. Learn about some seafood options for your own table that the Aquarium considers to be ocean-friendly, or consider joining us for a Celebrate Seafood Dinner to discover some tasty and elegant ways to enjoy sustainably caught seafood.