What is Sustainable Seafood?

What is Sustainable Seafood?

Sustainable seafood is seafood that is caught or harvested in a method that ensures long-term survival and health of that species, as well as its ecosystem. Throughout history, many certification and recommendation programs have been established to set standard guidelines outlining current sustainable farming and fishing practices. Not all labeling companies have the same guidelines when it comes to sustainability, however many share similar visions and goals as to what defines sustainable seafood.

Here Are The 4 key components:

Environmental Responsibility: Is harvesting done utilizing processes that lower or limit damage to aquatic habitats or have negative impacts on other species?

Animal Health and Welfare: Is the fish being fished in abundance and will it be able to withstand various fishing demands?

Well Managed Plan: Is the fishery well-managed with a comprehensive management plan based on current research?

Social Accountability: Does the company act in the best interest of the environment and/or surrounding society?

Why is Sustainable Seafood Important?

In order to fully understand the importance of sustainable seafood and how it came about, we must first dive into the Sustainable Seafood Movement in the mid-late 1990s. In 1992 Canada issued a moratorium when Northern Cod stocks fell to 1% after 500+ years of fishing in the area. The red flag hinted at the fact we were overfishing our oceans. The fisheries had to close as the stocks were depleted faster than they could be replenished. By 1997, the Status of Fisheries of the United States issued a statement saying 86 species of fish were currently overfished and 10 species rapidly approaching the overfished status.

Following these events producers, chefs, local governments, and conservationist all saw a need for better regulation and environmental responsibility. The realities of overexploitation and depleting fish stock created a need for a governing/regulatory board. Non-profit labeling organizations such as MSC, ASC, BAP, Friends of the Sea, and Oceanwise came about as a response to this crisis.

Since the development of these labeling organizations, demand for seafood has increased drastically. New fishing/farming techniques are constantly implemented to improve yield/quality and to keep up with current demand. These industry specific innovations have led to better management of the ecosystems’ wild stock and farmed aquaculture. Between 1990-2018 global fish consumption had gone up +122% and global aquaculture production went up +527%. Although this is a step in the right direction, we are far from solving the issue, as many fisheries operate outside of these organizations. Continuing without implementing guidelines is not a viable choice for our oceans. We must do our part to support sustainable seafood and educate others on this topic.

Who Are The Main Labeling Organizations?

MSC (Marine Stewardship Council)

In 1997, MSC (Marine Stewardship Council) implemented their first ever sustainable seafood certification program. This project was taken on by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature as well as Unilever. Along with a board of scientists, activists, policy makers, and industry representatives, sat down to outline MSC’s “Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Fishing”.

They are as follows; sustainable fish stock, minimizing environmental impact, and effective management.

MSC is currently the only certification to meet best practice standards of both UNFAO (United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization) and ISEAL (International Social and Environmental Accreditation and Labeling). As well, in March of 2017 MSC became the first global seafood certification to be recognized by GSSI.

ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council)

In 2010, ASC (Aquaculture Stewardship Council) was founded by the World Wildlife Fund for Nature and IDH (Dutch Sustainable Trade Initiative). ASC standards follow the WWF Aquaculture Dialogues that were created by aquaculture farmers, consumers, and non-governmental organizations.

ASC applies over 150 performance indicators to help guide sustainable aquaculture. They also establish requirements for workers’ rights and protect surrounding local communities of certified farms.

ASC currently certifies over 1300 fish farms worldwide, with 250 salmon farms and over 100 bivalve farms.

FOS (Friend of the Sea)

Founded in 2008, Friends of the Sea is a sustainable seafood certification based in Italy. Founded by the director of International Programs – Dolphin Safe Project, Paolo Bray. Not only is this certification directed towards fisheries and aquaculture farms, but also producers of fishmeal as well as omega-3 fish oils.

FOS standard requirements include: no impact on critical habitat, compliance with water quality parameters, reduction of escapes to negligible levels, no use of harmful antifouling/growth hormones, compliance with social accountability, and reduced carbon footprint.

Friend of the Sea is the accredited by the IAF and by the EU national accreditation body.

BAP (Best Aquaculture Practices)

BAP was developed by the GAA (Global Aquaculture Alliance) in 2002 to outline certification standards and to boost responsible aquaculture practices.

This voluntary certification program addresses social/environmental responsibility, animal welfare, as well as food safety/traceability.

Best Aquaculture Practices currently certifes 1500+ farms, 200+ hatcheries, 350+ processing plants , and many more.


Oceanwise was founded in 2005 as Canada’s first sustainable seafood program. This project was launched by the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Center to address the issue of overfishing and the subsequent environmental impact.

Their aquaculture program highlights the following criteria: data, effluent (liquid waste/sewage), habitat effects, chemical use, feed, escapes and introduced species, disease (pathogen/parasite interaction), source of stock, predator and wildlife mortality, and escape of secondary species.

This high criteria standard combined with their sustainable seafood search program makes Oceanwise one of the leading labeling companies. Daily Seafood has been a proud partner of Oceanwise for over 7 years and counting. This partnership process requires Oceanwise to collect information on our suppliers, verify said suppliers, and train our staff on program goals and standards. This way we can ensure the most accurate information is passed on to our customers, while also maintaining a high stock of sustainable products in house.

What Can We Do Moving Forward?

Now that we understand what sustainable seafood is and who the major players are, we must ask ourselves what it means to us and how we can change the way we buy/consume our seafood.

1. Learn to recognize your seafood. Not only by its looks, but also by its origin and season. Knowing when certain fish are available will allow you to make a more sustainable decision when choosing seafood. Fish caught out of season are generally non-sustainable. Customers can refer to seasonal fish calendars and guides.

2. Swim against the tide and try something new. If consumers are accustomed to ingesting only 3-5 types of seafood, they are constantly putting pressure on fishermen and the environment to supply those 3-5 species specifically. Diversifying your seafood selection or consuming species lower on the food chain will allow for natural stock to replenish and relieve pressure on fishermen.

3. When shopping, look for ecolabels. Ecolabels allow for fishermen and aquaculture farms to demonstrate their dedication to sustainable seafood. As a consumer, ecolabels are an insurance that your seafood was ethically cultivated and harvested.

4. Promote and support local producers. With seafood or any product that has been passed down a long supply chain, end consumers are sometimes left in the dark with important product information being omitted. You can shorten the supply chain by supporting local fisheries and retailers. In doing so you can obtain more information on your product as it has crossed fewer hands. This in turn will increase your confidence and trust in the product.

At the end of the day, it comes down to the willingness to put sustainable seafood on your table. Daily Seafood strives to uphold these values by mainly stocking a sustainable seafood selection and by informing our customers on the catching location, method, and type of certification. The end goal is to promote healthy eating and healthier oceans.

Additional information can be found in the description section of each item.