Much has been written in recent years about the sustainability of fish and seafood, and consumers and restaurateurs are increasingly interested in making good long-term choices. There are several certification bodies, each with a unique set of standards. It is confusing for everyone, because the different standards lead to different conclusions on the same species of fish.
For example, the species Chilean seabass is on SeaChoice avoid list yet the Chilean Seabass fisheries of certain areas (like South Georgia Island, off the coast of Argentina) are certified by the Marine Stewardship Council, “the gold standard for environmental certification and eco-labeling” (Globe and Mail, August 1, 2009). Ocean Wise has recently certified the entire species after having it on the “avoid” list for years. The difference in opinion is caused by the legality of the source (licensed versus unlicensed ships), the method by which the fish is caught (for example, trawl fishing is often harmful to other species and the bottom of the ocean whereas line-caught are not) and the view of the organization on whether the species is over-fished or not.
Our aim is to provide a variety of sustainable fish choices every week. At Edesia Fine Foods, we only use suppliers who are also committed to sustainability, and enforce that by using buying certified fish and fish from licensed boats. However, we are not going to limit your choices by aligning ourselves to any one certification body, as no certification body has reviewed all of the world’s fisheries and thus the choices would be unnecessarily limiting.
There is also confusion about the difference between sustainable and organic. The European Union has established an organic standard, and we often have farmed organic salmon from the North Atlantic, based in either Ireland or Scotland. There is no similar standard in North America.
The most common seafood certification bodies in Canada are:
This body certifies species of fish based on its assessment of whether a species is sustainable or not. It does not distinguish between geographic areas or the way in which certain countries or areas catch fish. Ocean Wise recommendations are generated from assessments using the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program methodology.
Ocean Wise’s recommendations are based on four criteria. An Ocean Wise recommended species is:
Best Aquaculture Practices offers a primarily ‘process’ certification. They certify products that are both grown, caught and processed in a sustainable way. Therefore a species from one processor can be BAP-certified but another producer of the same species from the same area may not be certified. another processor in the same area but not from another processor.
According to BAP, “by implementing BAP standards, program participants can better meet the demands of the growing global market for wholesome seafood produced in an environmentally and socially responsible manner”.
The MSC certifies fisheries, not species. That means they certify a type of fish in a specific area. Therefore a species can be fine if caught in one area (for example, cod in the North Atlantic off the coast of England) but not in another (cod off the coast of Atlantic Canada).
The MSC has developed standards for sustainable fishing and seafood traceability. Both standards are based on independent third-party assessments by accredited certifiers. They meet the world’s toughest best practice criteria and are helping to transform global seafood markets.
SeaChoice has developed a comprehensive list of fish species, ranked by sustainability as best choice, some concerns and avoid, depending on their assessment of long-term sustainability. In some cases, it does distinguish between georgraphic areas and the way in which certain countries or areas catch fish, although many species are given only one global rating.
SeaChoice, Canada’s most comprehensive sustainable seafood program, is about solutions for healthy oceans. Five internationally respected Canadian conservation organizations – Canadian Parks and Wilderness Society, the David Suzuki Foundation, Ecology Action Center, Living Oceans Society and Sierra Club British Columbia – formed SeaChoice to help Canadians take an active role in supporting sustainable fisheries and aquaculture at all levels of the seafood supply chain.
Working in collaboration with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s acclaimed Seafood Watch program, SeaChoice undertakes science-based seafood assessments, provides informative resources for consumers, and supports businesses through collaborative partnerships.