Seafood Watch makes ‘top-to-bottom revisions’


Steven Hedlund

Published on
January 30, 2012

After an 18-month evaluation involving more than 60 experts, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program on Monday announced that it has revised its sustainability assessment criteria and internal research process to improve the frequency and conciseness of its reports.

The revisions will make it easier for Seafood Watch researchers to keep its top 100 reports, which contain more than 2,000 seafood-buying recommendations, updated and responsive to new information, according to Dr. Tom Pickerell, the aquarium’s senior science manager. The revisions will also allow researchers to evaluate more seafood species.

The program will, however, keep its “traffic light” ratings system, which groups species into three color-coded categories — best choices (green), good alternatives (yellow) and avoid (red).

Additionally, Seafood Watch will spend the next nine months evaluating sustainable seafood certification schemes, including those of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), Global Aquaculture Alliance (GAA), Global Good Aquaculture Practices (GlobalGAP) and Responsible Fisheries Management Certification (Global Trust) to determine if any or all are “credible — that is, adhere to a robust process — and equivalent to at least a Seafood Watch ‘Good Alternative’ yellow ranking or above,” said Pickerell.

“This will give us the opportunity to defer to these eco-certification schemes,” he said. “We will, however, maintain the right to rescind our support of individual fisheries or farms should their certification be debated based on sound scientific evidence.”

“The research team will also launch a number of pilot projects examining strategies to enable stakeholders to utilize our criteria and methodology to assess fisheries and aquaculture operations that are not being assessed by Seafood Watch,” he said.

Added Seafood Watch Program Director Jennifer Dianto Kemmerly, “This is a top-to-bottom revision of our process, like nothing we’ve undertaken in the past. In the end, our seafood reports will be more transparent, robust and current than ever. And, by designing new tools and approaches, we hope to enable a far greater number of fisheries and aquaculture operations, at a much finer level of detail, to proceed through our assessment process.”

This month, Seafood Watch updated its influential seafood-buying guide, and a number of fisheries from Hawaii and California are now receiving a thumbs-up.

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