Defining Sustainable Seafood

Jill (The Real Food Forager)

Jill (The Real Food Forager) › As a Clinical Nutritionist/Chiropractor with a specialty in SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) and GAPS (Gut ...


Sustainable is a word that is bandied about in hopes of being politically correct. But because it is difficult to define, you may think you are purchasing a sustainable fish when, in fact, you are not. The term sustainable seafood has no governmental definition. That puts it on par with the term natural on boxed foods. It is a meaningless marketing ploy. How can you be sure you are getting the real deal?

Sustainable Seafood is difficult to define

In order to define the term sustainable, you need the answers to some important questions that involve the particular species, the methods used to catch or raise the fish and the location of the fish.

If you are purchasing wild caught seafood, you need to ask the following:

  • What is the population of the species at specific locations?
  • Are the populations strong and is there a plan for managing the resource responsibly?
  • What is the catch method?  Does it damage the environment?
  • Is there by-catch (also called incidental catch)?
  • Are the fish caught before they reproduce — this is damaging to the population.
  • Are the fish slow growing or fast growing — if slow, they are more vulnerable.

The issues involved with wild caught fish


Large fish that live a long time and those that are slow to reproduce are among the most vulnerable. Additionally, when one kind of fish is no longer plentiful, fishermen may move on to new species. When the larger fish are exhausted, they move on to the smaller fish. The problem is that these smaller fish are also food for other fish, sea birds and sea mammals. Removing them will affect the entire ecosystem. This is called fishing down the food web.

Habitat Damage

Bottom trawling and dredging are top offenders, because they destroy everything in their path. In Alaskan waters alone, bottom trawls remove over one million pounds of deep water corals and sponges from the sea floor each year. In general, traps and pots cause less seafloor damage and catch fewer unintended species than other types of fishing gear that contact the seafloor.

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This article originally appeared on It is partially posted here with permission of the author.

THE WRITER: Jill is a modern day, suburban real food forager as well as a Clinical Nutritionist/Chiropractor with a specialty in SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet) and GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome). She has found that the very best quality foods comes directly from the farmer. Read more of Jill's writing at her blog

Photo Credit: David Gregs (via