New Rapid Assessment Tool Expands Ocean Wise Seafood Recommendation Program for Previously Unassessed Canadian Fisheries
Rigorous new rapid assessment tool removes barriers to Ocean Wise’s globally recognized sustainable seafood program by making it faster and more cost effective, while maintaining scientific rigour
Vancouver, February 14, 2023 – Overfishing is one of the greatest threats our ocean faces and one of the most direct ways humans impact the ocean. With an estimated 3 billion people globally relying on seafood as a significant source of protein it is critical that science and communication come together to help consumers make responsible choices. Since 2005 Ocean Wise has helped consumers and businesses – including restaurants, markets, and suppliers – navigate these choices with its globally recognized sustainable seafood recommendation program.
Unfortunately, Canadians have only been getting a portion of the information needed to make informed decisions about their domestic seafood consumption. Historically, due to data and capacity limitations, a significant number of Canadian fisheries have not been able to be assessed by Ocean Wise or similar sustainable seafood programs.
Recognizing the need to support sustainable practices of domestic Canadian seafood, Ocean Wise has developed a new Rapid Assessment Standard (RAPSTA) which creates a more comprehensive set of recommendations. This new standard provides a quicker, more cost-effective, and still scientifically rigorous assessment that will allow for more fisheries to be rated on a more frequent basis. Additionally, RAPSTA will allow Ocean Wise to track the progress of fisheries over time, allowing for targeted efforts to rebuild fish stocks.
RAPSTA’s new methodology, developed by Dr. Laurenne Schiller, a Liber Ero postdoctoral researcher at Carleton University, in collaboration with Ocean Wise Seafood’s Science Lead Samantha Renshaw pairs rigorous data from the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program and Oceana Canada’s 2022 Fishery Audit to rapidly identify the sustainability of fisheries that were previously unassessed. RAPSTA is a tool that will work in conjunction with the existing Ocean Wise recommendation system to provide a larger suite of recommendations. If they meet the Ocean Wise standard, new RAPSTA rated items will carry the Ocean Wise Recommended symbol and be subject to change yearly, as opposed to a more typical five-year timeline with Ocean Wise’s standard assessments.
Another exciting component of RAPSTA is the assessment possibility the methodology opens for small-scale fisheries –fishers who typically operate without boats, or typically on boats less than 15 meters in length, with relatively low annual catch volumes – previously unassessed due to data and capacity limitations. Small-scale (i.e., small volume) fisheries are often left out of sustainability programs, but have the capacity to supply high quality, domestic, sustainable products, while often being local family-run or Indigenous businesses that provide food security and economic/cultural value.
New Ocean Wise Recommended Seafood Options
Of 135 new ratings under RAPSTA, 17 are Ocean Wise Recommended, while 118 are not recommended. Most not recommended species were driven by ineffective scores for management of target species (especially in the case of COSEWIC-listed species and a lack of associated robust recovery plan) or low bycatch scores (particularly in the Atlantic Ocean due to concerns over fixed gear interactions with endangered whales). Per the 2022 Oceana Fishery Audit, 47% of stocks hold an Uncertain population status in 2022 meaning an up-to-date stock assessment for a given fishery is unavailable. This lack of data limits our ability to assess the health and sustainability of the fishery.
These results indicate that it is more important than ever for consumers to have access to information to make sustainable choices about where their seafood comes from. Ocean Wise is committed to engaging with producers from coast to coast to develop best practices that help restore our ocean ecosystems.
New Ocean Wise Recommended options include:
- Clam, Pacific Geoduck, harvested via diving
- Gooseneck barnacles, harvested via hand implements, Clayoquot Sound
- Atlantic Halibut, harvested via handlines and pole-and-lines (hand operated), Atlantic Ocean
- Arctic Cod, harvested via gillnets, handlines, pole-and-lines, Arctic
Ocean Wise only recommends seafood options that:
- Ensure healthy and resilient stocks and populations
- Have effective and adaptive management plans in place
- Limit negative impacts on habitats and other species
See the Master List of Ocean Wise Recommendations including RAPSTA-generated Ocean Wise Recommendations HERE.
“RAPSTA offers a broader suit of recommendations to Ocean Wise’s partners and seafood consumers while still maintain the scientific rigour they have come to expect. This means the next time Canadians head to the counter to purchase some locally caught seafood, they’ll have more information about its sustainability available to them. It also means we will be better equipped to help Canadian fisheries recover.” – Lasse Gustavsson, CEO and President of Ocean Wise
“The objective of RAPSTA is to give Canadians a more complete understanding of domestic seafood sustainability. We are a fishing nation, and supporting sustainable fisheries means not only protecting and restoring ecosystems but also working to support producers on the water to ensure we have healthy and delicious food on our plates. “- Samantha Renshaw, Science Lead, Ocean Wise Seafood and Fisheries, Co-Author, RAPSTA
“RAPSTA would have been impossible without the long-term work of three unique organizations. Ocean Wise, Oceana, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program all provide invaluable information on fisheries and in developing RAPSTA, we were able to combine their key outputs. I hope the results of RAPSTA will incentivize improved stock assessments for data-poor fisheries, as they are currently at a huge disadvantage in the market.” – Dr. Laurenne Schiller, Lead Author, RAPSTA
“In the face of overfishing, climate change and biodiversity loss, the need to protect and rebuild depleted wild fish populations has never been more urgent. Our annual Fishery Audit fills critical knowledge gaps about the state of Canada’s fisheries and their management and makes government recommendations made possible by data provided by Fisheries and Oceans Canada. We’re pleased to see it’s also being used by researchers at Ocean Wise to help consumers make more informed, sustainable seafood choices.” – Dr. Robert Rangeley, Oceana Canada’s Science Director
“Navigating the complex environment of seafood sustainability is a challenge for everyone. Our biggest asset in this effort is access to reliable information that can steer us to responsible seafood choices. Ocean Wise now has another tool to help guide Canadians toward this end.” -Erin Hudson, Seafood Watch Program Director, Monterey Bay Aquarium
- Since 2005 Ocean Wise has offered consumers a simple and effective way to ensure that they are making a sustainable seafood choice, whether at the grocery store, fish monger or their favourite restaurant.
- Ocean Wise’s Seafood program has over 780 partners and 3,100 partner locations in Canada and around the world.
- Canada’s fishing industry employs more than 70,000 Canadians generating over $6 Billion dollars in revenue each year.
- Globally, over three billion people rely on seafood as an important source of protein
- Canadian small-scale fishers represent 6% of all fishers in the country
- Using data from Oceana Canada’s Fishery Audit and 2022 The new Rapid Assessment Standard (RAPSTA) creates a more comprehensive set of recommendations that include often overlooked small-scale fisheries.
- Ocean Wise’s new Rapid Assessment Standard (RAPSTA) uses data from Oceana Canada’s Fishery Audit 2022 and the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch Program.
About Ocean Wise’s Seafood Program
Ocean Wise’s Seafood program empowers consumers and businesses to choose sustainable seafood options that support healthy oceans, today and into the future. Thanks to our team of scientists and collaborators, our recommendations are based on the most up-to-date science on aquatic ecosystems and the species they support. We are continuously working with our partners to grow their list of Ocean Wise recommended options that allow them to achieve their sustainability goals and meet the demand of customers who care about protecting the ocean. The Ocean Wise symbol next to a seafood item is our assurance of an ocean-friendly seafood choice.
About Ocean Wise
Ocean Wise is a globally focused conservation organization on a mission to restore and protect our oceans. Through research, education, public engagement, and international collaborations, we empower communities to fight three major ocean challenges: ocean pollution, overfishing and climate change. By equipping and empowering individuals, communities, industries, and governments, we can create a future where people and our oceans can thrive. Ocean Wise is headquartered in Vancouver, British Columbia with staff across Canada, Mexico, and Chile, and operates conservation projects that make national and international impact.