New approach at Seafood Watch?


Ben DiPietro, contributing editor, reporting from Seattle

Published on
August 10, 2011

To better engage the seafood supply chain, the Seafood Watch program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium in Monterey, Calif., is working to improve fisheries and farmed fish operations that produce red-listed species on its consumer guide.

Known primarily for its wallet-size guides, of which tens of millions have been distributed since the program began in 1999 — and now for its smartphone applications, of which nearly a quarter-million have been downloaded — Seafood Watch is taking the next step in its evolution by looking to better engage with a seafood industry that has not always been supportive of its mission, and in fact was downright hostile to it at its inception.

The industry at first thought the idea of a consumer-recommendation guide was too simplistic and didn’t account for the variances in various species, where they were caught, what methods were used to catch them, or how and where they were farmed and what practices each individual farm employed.

Since then, sustainability has gone beyond buzzword into mainstream. As the Seafood Watch program has grown with consumers, and as buyers felt pressure to offer species with good ratings, the seafood industry has changed its tune and has chosen to work with the program and other non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with similar agendas rather than fight them.

With that in mind, Seafood Watch — which has come to realize the seafood industry is a necessary part of improving fisheries and not the enemy — is expanding its mission to better work with large seafood buyers and have them use their purchasing power to affect changes in fisheries and aquaculture operations that don’t presently meet the program’s sustainability standards. The endeavor first was announced in May at the aquarium’s annual Cooking for Solutions conference.

“What we’re trying to encourage is not to just abandon sources of seafood if it’s got a red-listed or avoid-listed item,” says Jennifer Dianto Kemmerly, head of the Seafood Watch program. “We really want retailers to try engaging their supply chain and producers in improving those fisheries. This whole concept of fisheries improvement projects or aquaculture improvement projects is something we feel is really important to affect change on the water.”

Click here to read the rest of the feature on the Seafood Watch program, the cover story of SeaFood Business magazine’s August issue. 

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