Seafood Watch - Sailors for the Sea

Seafood Watch

By: Karin Stratton, Seafood Watch Partnership Program Manager | January 5, 2016

Eat Green for the Big Blue

Oceans are critical to planetary health and human survival. Though we depend on our seas for food, climate regulation and recreation, they are threatened by human activity. In particular, some fishing and fish farming practices worldwide are damaging these resources —depleting fish populations, destroying habitats and polluting the water.

Seafood is one of the leading sources of the world’s protein consumed by humans, with 200 billion pounds of fish and shellfish coming out of the ocean each year. Many of the world’s major fisheries are in severe decline and without intervention, global fish stocks will be depleted within a generation. Aquaculture or fish farms can help relieve this pressure – and just in the past year, more than half of all seafood was farmed – but this activity has its own environmental impacts.

Good News

It’s not too late to restore global fisheries. Ocean life is resilient and, with proper management, can recover – sometimes quite quickly.

The Monterey Bay Aquarium in California seeks to inspire conservation of the ocean and its resources, as well as inspire action to create a future with healthy oceans. It created Seafood Watch® as a practical way to establish market incentives for fishing and aquaculture industries to reduce their environmental impact. These actions will increase the long-term availability of seafood and help protect ocean resources.

Behind the Scenes

The backbone of the Seafood Watch program starts with behind-the-scenes work to use credible, scientific research to create sound recommendations on environmentally responsible seafood options. Those recommendations are, in turn, used by consumers, chefs and major seafood buyers to inform their purchasing decisions.

The process for developing and publicizing the research behind the recommendations also highlights areas where improvement in fishing and aquaculture methods can lead to more sustainable practices. That information is being used by many fisheries managers, aquaculture producers and certification bodies to adopt more ocean-friendly approaches and hopefully create more sustainable seafood in the future.

The Hard Work

Seafood Watch scientists research government reports, scientific journal articles and white papers. They also contact fishery and fish farm experts. After a thorough review of all the available data, the scientists apply publicly available Seafood Watch sustainability criteria to develop an in-depth Seafood Watch Report. All of our reports are reviewed by a panel of experts from academia, government and the seafood industry. The final reports are available at All Seafood Watch recommendations are based on these reports.

Through various outreach channels, this research is made relevant and accessible to both consumer and business decision makers. The Seafood Watch consumer guide and mobile applications reach millions of individuals. Seafood Watch staff provide even more detailed evaluation and support for business partners that range from individual restaurants to major retailers and food service companies. As the science changes, and new information becomes available, the Seafood Watch science team updates the printed consumer guides twice a year. Both the smartphone app and website are updated monthly.

Science for Everyone

Seafood Watch communicates and expands the reach of our science-based recommendations through strategic messengers who are trusted, influential sources of information for consumers. These strategic messengers include our Conservation Partners, including zoos, aquariums, science museums and other organizations, like Sailors for the Sea, who are helping to build awareness about ocean-friendly seafood choices. Conservation Partners, nicknamed “COPs” actively engage their audiences through social media, public programs, special events, community outreach, food service practices and by using Seafood Watch criteria in purchasing feed for their living collections. COPs are located throughout North America and, most recently, in Europe and Asia. Simply put, although Seafood Watch can’t be everywhere all of the time, COPs are.

In addition, the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions also helps to carry the message of sustainable seafood and Seafood Watch recommendations, as do celebrity chefs like Rick Bayless and Hugh Acheson of Top Chef fame. Seafood Watch’s science-based recommendations, reinforced and amplified by these incredible messengers, help elevate awareness of sustainable seafood, driving change in the form of better fishing and aquaculture methods.

After 16 years, we know that the combined effort of consumers, chefs and businesses is making a difference in how seafood is caught and farmed. Today, the purchasing decisions at more than 100,000 business locations across North America are informed by Seafood Watch science. International eco-certification bodies are strengthening their standards to meet Seafood Watch criteria. And we’re working with colleagues in Asia and South America to help them develop home-grown sustainable seafood programs.

ABC…EASY AS 1,2,3!

Sustainable seafood has grown from a small consumer-focused conservation campaign into a global movement. If you have not already joined…

Sustainable seafood is no longer just a conservation campaign in the hands of scientists. Consumers have become the catalyst for a growing global movement. If you have not already joined, you can start today by using a Seafood Watch consumer guide or the mobile app while shopping or dining out.

But take it one step further. The Seafood Watch guide is a great prompt for starting conversations with restaurant staff, seafood sellers and friends. Your interest in where your seafood comes from plays a critical role in elevating the importance of sustainable seafood, and influencing suppliers to shift their purchasing in a more sustainable direction.

You can make a difference. Follow these steps to create a positive future for the ocean.

Take Action

  • Join this leading community of Green Boaters to save our oceans. 
  • Follow us and spread the message on Facebook and Instagram.
  • Donate to Sailors for the Sea to help educate and activate the sailing and boating community toward improving ocean health.