EarthLabs > Fisheries > Lab 2: Are You Going to Eat That? > 2B: Identifying Sustainable Seafood

Are You Going to Eat That?

Part B: Identifying Sustainable Seafood

Certain types of fish, such as the Mahi-Mahi, show little or no evidence of threatened sustainability, and are therefore recommended seafood choices. The Orange Roughy, widely overfished and harvested through destructive bottom trawling, is an example of a seafood choice to avoid in many locations.
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch team defines sustainable seafood as "seafood from sources, either fished or farmed, that can exist over the long-term without compromising species' survival or the health of the surrounding ecosystem." The Seafood Watch team, as well as several other research and conservation groups, have each developed methods for evaluating the sustainability of seafood, and provide consumers with recommendations for responsible seafood choices.


  1. Read the Conservation Magazine article "Harnessing Consumer Power for Ocean Conservation".


    Checking In

    Check your understanding of the different ways in which the sustainability of seafood is evaluated.

    • What is the difference between Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification and seafood ranking systems?
      The difference between certifications and ranking systems is that consumers see the results of certifications as an on-pack label for only those products that have passed evaluation, whereas ranking systems arm consumers with the information they need to choose among an array of products in the marketplace.

  2. Examine the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch guide provided by your teacher. If print copies are not available, visit the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch website to download and view a Seafood Watch guide for the region of the country where you live.

  3. Look at two additional seafood guides for fish available in your geographic area, published by different conservation groups. Use the links below to download and view guides online if print copies are not available from your teacher.
    1. Environmental Defense Fund Seafood Selector
    2. Blue Ocean Institute Guide to Ocean Friendly Seafood

    Checking In

    • Compare and contrast the species you found on each seafood guide. Do the same species appear on all three?


    Stop and Think

    1:Why might a restaurant or fish market sell certain fish under pseudonyms (false names)? Explain.

    2:Why do you think the recommendation for a particular species might differ between guides?


  4. Read the guidelines (Acrobat (PDF) 237kB Jun28 07) used by the Seafood Watch Program to make seafood recommendations.

  5. The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service maintains a website called Fish Watch that does not grade fish, but provides consumers with a variety of information on the species and fishing practices associated with it to help them make an informed decision. Go to the FishWatch website.
    • Use the "about fishwatch" link at the top of the page to learn more about how to navigate the FishWatch page and how to interpret the information provided.
    • The FishWatch site also has useful information regarding fisheries management, fishing gear types, fisheries management stakeholders, trade statistics, and seafood health.

  6. In a group, use the FishWatch site to research the fish species assigned by your teacher.

  7. Prepare a short presentation of the information you find about your assigned species. Include the following information in your presentation:
    • species name plus any vernacular (common names);
    • the species' role in the ecosystem;
    • trends in biomass and landings;
    • important dates relevant to the species' sustainability status; and
    • the species' current sustainability status.

  8. As a class, rank the species of fish each group researched from most to least sustainable under current conditions.


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