Sustainable Food Purchasing: Seafood

Americans consume nearly 5 billion pounds of seafood each year, half of it in restaurants and cafeterias. That’s a big appetite to feed, and demand is only expected to grow. Sadly, more than 70 percent of the world’s fisheries have been fished to the max, leading many to question how we can ensure a steady, reliable stream of safe and eco-friendly seafood in the future.

To improve their environmental performance, dining managers are adopting the following best practices:

  1. Select Eco-Friendly Fish. Avoid the use of unsustainable fish stocks on your menu by visiting EDF’s online Seafood Selector. The Selector rates species from “eco-worst” (red) to “eco-best” (green) depending on a regional fishery’s health. You should aim to substitute all fish that appear on the red “eco-worst” column with those from the yellow or green columns (even better is to only source from the green column over time). Keep in mind that these general recommendations work for most, but not all regions and fisheries, and that the status of individual fisheries can change over time.Therefore, it’s best to also consult with organizations like Blue Ocean Institute, FishChoice, or the Monterey Bay Aquarium to ensure that you arrive at the right decision.Two exceptions: If a fish species receives an “eco-worst” rating on EDF’s Seafood Selector but comes from a specific fishery that’s verified as environmentally friendly by the Marine Stewardship Council, the Monterey Bay Aquarium, or other credible environmental organizations, it’s environmentally OK. The same exception applies to farmed shrimp or salmon that has been audited as having met EDF’s sourcing policies, developed in partnership with Wegmans and Bon Appétit Management Company.Sound confusing? Fortunately, it’s getting easier to properly source sustainable seafood. The Blue Ocean Institute and Chefs Collaborative offers a chef training program and FishChoice helps match purchasers and suppliers with eco-friendly seafood products.
  2. Protect Customers from Contaminants. Many diners order fish as a source of heart-healthy omega-3 fats, but some species contain mercury or other contaminants that are unsafe (particularly for children and women of childbearing age) to consume more than once a week. Guard your customers’ well being by serving seafood at a frequency that is consistent with EDF’s Seafood Selector Health Alert List.
  3. Strive for Transparency. Always buy seafood from credible and trusted vendors—and give customers plenty of information. Make available the name and region of production for every fish on the menu, and whether it meets certain certifications or not. Follow these and other recommendations issued by Environmental Defense Fund and a collaboration of leading NGOs.
  4. Reduce Transport GHGs.  Follow our Food Transport best practices to learn about other ways to reduce the environmental impact of shipping seafood to your facility.