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Overfishing is the biggest threat facing the world’s oceans today. This begs the question, “Isn’t the most sustainable option not to eat seafood at all?”

Fortunately for seafood lovers out there, giving up seafood is not the only solution. Instead, we can help ensure healthy, productive oceans by making the switch to more sustainable seafood options. To celebrate Ocean Wise month this November, we want to share with you the top 10 frequently asked Ocean Wise questions to help you navigate the seas of sustainable seafood.

  1. What is exactly is “sustainable seafood?” Sustainable seafood can be defined as species that are caught or farmed in a way that ensures the long-term health and stability of that species, as well as the greater marine ecosystem.
  2. What is Ocean Wise? Ocean Wise is a Vancouver Aquarium conservation program, created to help businesses and their customers identify and purchase sustainable seafood. The Ocean Wise symbol next to a seafood item assures you that option is the best choice for the health of the oceans.

    Ocean Wise sustainable seafood
    Choosing Ocean Wise means choosing sustainability for our oceans.
  3. Do I have to give up sushi in order to eat sustainable seafood? Not at all! Many sushi restaurants provide tasty sustainable alternatives such as wild salmon (sake), sablefish (gindara) instead of unsustainable eel (unagi), and albacore tuna (bincho) instead of Bluefin tuna. Several sushi restaurants are now using 100 per cent sustainable sushi including the RawBar at The Fairmont Pacific Rim in Vancouver and Fukasaku in Prince Rupert.

    Ocean Wise sushi restaurants in Vancouver
    Many sushi restaurants are now offering sustainable alternatives.
  4. How does Ocean Wise make seafood recommendations? Ocean Wise defines sustainability based on four criteria. An Ocean Wise recommended species is:
    • Abundant and resilient to fishing pressures.
    • Well managed with a comprehensive management plan based on current research.
    • Harvested in a method that ensures limited bycatch on non-target and endangered species.
    • Harvested in ways that limit damage to marine or aquatic habitats and negative interactions with other species.
  5. Where can I find Ocean Wise partners? Ocean Wise works with over 575 partners in more than 3000 locations across Canada. A full list of official Ocean Wise restaurants, suppliers, and retailers can be found on the Ocean Wise website.

    Ocean Wise seafood restaurant partners
    From high end establishments to mom and pop restaurants, Ocean Wise seafood can be found all across Canada. Photo Credit: Christian Horan
  1. What can I do to make a sustainable choice if a restaurant or retailer is not an Ocean Wise partner? Just ask, “Is this seafood sustainable?” In addition to getting extra information about the item, you will also be letting the business know that sustainable seafood is a priority for you.
  2. Is farmed seafood sustainable? It depends. Options like farmed shellfish and seafood raised in land-based, closed-containment systems have minimal impact on the environment, making them excellent sustainable options. Other farming methods use open net pens and ponds that can have significant, negative environmental impacts. Being familiar with common aquaculture techniques and looking for the Ocean Wise symbol can help you identify sustainable choices.

    Aquaculture and ocean wise seafood
    Knowing how the fish was raised is the key to sustainability. Photo Credit: Eric Punkay, Marine Photobank.
  3. Does Ocean Wise make recommendations about health benefits or toxins in seafood? Ocean Wise makes sustainability recommendations, and is not qualified to make medical recommendations. There are lots of other websites that can help you make informed decisions on health topics related to eating seafood, mercury and contaminants.
  4. What is the difference between Ocean Wise and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)? Ocean Wise is a recommendation program, whereas MSC is a certification program that audits fisheries against the MSC standard. Because Ocean Wise and MSC have different criteria for sustainability, not all MSC certified fisheries are Ocean Wise.
  5. Does my seafood choice really make a difference? Yes. The seafood market it heavily influenced by consumer demand. When you support a sustainable fishery or farm, you send the message that sustainable seafood is important to you. This increases the demand for ocean-friendly practices, while also taking the pressure off overfished species.

By only selecting sustainable seafood you can help ensure the health of our oceans for generations to come.

During the month of November, you can win great Ocean Wise prizes by snapping a photo of any Ocean Wise dish, tagging it #OceanWise and sharing it online through Twitter or Instagram. Choosing Ocean Wise sustainable seafood has never been more easy or delicious.

Posted November 13, 2014 by Vancouver Aquarium

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