Of the dozens of U.S. aquaria educating the public about underwater life, the 34-year-old Monterey Bay Aquarium on California’s Central Coast is an international standout. Researchers there set the sustainable seafood standards for fishmongers and restaurants across the United States, even around the world.
It all started in 1999 with the “Fishing for Solutions” exhibition which shared impacts of fishing and aquaculture on the health of ocean wildlife and ecosystems. Through that the public learned that Atlantic populations of halibut and yellowtail flounder are at all-time lows. The breeding population of Pacific bluefin tuna is at four percent of its original size and continues to decline.
Education efforts included table tents in the aquarium’s restaurant identifying which fish were endangered by dining practices. Interestingly the public kept taking these guides from the tables. And so, the marketing department was continuously ordering more table tents.
Soon the museum realized the Aquarium was on to something significant. And that’s how The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program began to spread.
Today Seafood Watch reaches worldwide to help consumers and businesses choose seafood that’s fished or farmed in ways that support a healthy ocean, now and for future generations. Monterey Bay researchers identify which seafood items are best choices (green), good alternatives (yellow) or to be avoided (red).
- Best choices are populations that are well managed and caught or farmed in ways that cause little harm to habitats or other wildlife. Lake trout falls nto this category.
- Good alternatives raise concerns about how they’re caught or farmed. Lake Erie perch is a good alternative.
- Avoid selections are overfished or caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment. Orange roughy should be avoided.
More than 60 million Seafood Watch cards bearing this information have been distributed to educate consumers. Shoppers and diners can also identify best choices using the Seafood Watch app or by visiting http://www.seafoodwatch.org.