October is National Seafood Month. Seafood is the largest source of protein in the world, feeding over one billion people daily. While we have made progress in making smart seafood choices, educating the public about the benefits of eating a diet rich in seafood and the importance of sustainable fisheries there are still challenges. According to the National Aquarium, the global fishing fleet is two to three times larger than what the ocean can sustainably support and 70 percent of the world’s fisheries are exploited, overexploited or have already suffered a collapse.
Slavery in the fishing industry, seafood fraud and illegal fishing: What you can do to help
Slavery, seafood fraud and illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing are huge issues making news in the seafood community nowadays. For example, a Pulitzer Prize-winning Associated Press investigation [http://www.ap.org/explore/seafood-fromslaves/index.html#main-section] exposed human rights abuses in the seafood industry in Southeast Asia. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration found that about 15% of seafood is mislabeled, and other organizations have found the percentages to be higher. And it’s estimated that the economic impacts of IUU fishing are in the billions.
Some meaningful steps have been taken in the United States to combat these issues. In February, a decades-old loophole that allowed goods made by children or slaves to be imported into the U.S. was closed. The U.S. government is also developing a traceability program to combat seafood fraud and IUU fishing.
You, the consumer, have an important role in combatting these issues too.
One of the key ways we can curb seafood fraud, slavery and IUU fishing is seafood traceability. When seafood is traceable, there’s reliable data that documents how fish got from the ocean or farm, through the supply chain and ultimately to the restaurant or business you’re patronizing. When more consumers want to know where seafood is from and how it was caught or farmed, more restaurants and businesses will demand traceable seafood. These demands will, in turn, have a ripple effect on the seafood industry down the supply chain.
So how do you help?
• Ask grocers and restaurants: “Where is this seafood from and how was it caught or farmed?” If you don’t get answers, don’t buy the seafood.
• Buy Seafood Watch Best Choices or Good Alternatives. You can find them on the Seafood Watch app.
• Choose Seafood Watch partners (like us)! You can find us on the Seafood Watch app too.
Today, when you buy sustainable seafood, you know it was fished or farmed in an environmentally responsible way. But we also need to trust how our seafood is labeled, that it was caught legally and that human rights are respected from boat or farm to plate. So remember, always ask where your seafood is from and how it was caught or farmed.
For more information on Seafood Watch Best Choices or the Seafood Watch app go to:
Seafood Watch ® a registered service mark of the Monterrey Bay Aquarium Foundation.