Transforming the Global Seafood Industry
Fisheries and aquaculture play a significant role in global society — sustaining ocean health. They're a primary source of protein for 3 billion people around the world and support the livelihoods of at least 300 million households.
But the ocean's resources aren't infinite, and the way we harvest fish threatens the sustainability of the global seafood supply. In the wild, 90 percent of fisheries are either overfished or very close to overfished, and one in five fish caught is done so by illegal, unreported or unregulated means. Unsustainable fish farming can harm native species and destroy critical habitats that buffer coastal communities from the impacts of climate change.
Seafood sustainability isn't just about the environmental impacts of wild fisheries and aquaculture. It's also about ensuring fair, safe working conditions for the people who produce our seafood. Labor abuses in the seafood industry are taking a devastating toll. Experts estimate that millions of adults are victims of modern seafood slavery, and millions more children are harmed by hazardous child labor in the industry.
The Aquarium has long recognized the connections between environmental, social and economic health. We're making a measurable difference across all three areas — both through our Seafood Watch program, now in its 20th year, and through our newer policy initiatives.
Senior Aquaculture Scientist Taylor Voorhees (center) meets with shrimp producers in Vietnam.
Empowering businesses to choose socially responsible seafood
In collaboration with Conservation International, we brought together non-governmental organizations to establish a definition of social responsibility for the seafood industry. Working with Liberty Shared and the Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, we launched SeafoodSlaveryRisk.org, a tool to help businesses identify risks of forced labor, human trafficking and hazardous child labor in their supply chains.
Businesses can use the tool to identify seafood sourced from fisheries where these issues may exist, and work with suppliers to address them.
Maintaining the global standard for seafood sustainability
Our Seafood Watch team helps U.S. consumers and businesses make seafood choices for a healthy ocean. To do so, we depend on robust, transparent and timely data from fishing and aquaculture operations around the world. That's why we've grown our global network of analysts and partner organizations in Latin America, Europe, China, Japan and Southeast Asia.
Our seafood assessments, originally designed to drive demand for sustainable seafood in North America, now underpin the sustainable seafood movement around the globe. Producers use Seafood Watch assessments to improve their practices, and governments use them to inform their management of seafood resources.
Seafood Watch RecommendationsBest Choice: Buy first; they're well managed and caught or farmed responsibly.
Good Alternatives: Buy, but be aware there are concerns with how they're caught, farmed or managed.
Avoid: Take a pass on these for now; they're overfished, lack strong management or are caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment.
Eco-Labels: Buy eco-certified items listed on our app or website. They are at least equivalent to our Good Alternative rating.
Driving the market for sustainable seafood
From its origins as a consumer-facing pocket guide, our Seafood Watch program has grown to become the leading science-based global seafood sustainability standard.
Business commitments that affect international supply chains, coupled with public demand for sustainable seafood, are moving fisheries and aquaculture toward more sustainable practices worldwide. We are driving both business engagement and public demand.
Over the past 20 years, we have transformed how businesses purchase seafood. In 2018, we developed and deployed new tools to meet regional needs and support development of the conditions for sustainability in key seafood-producing nations.
We're acting to address supply chain barriers, improve social conditions and advance governance reform that will help producers meet growing demand for sustainable seafood. We are now focused on taking this work to scale in Southeast Asia, one of the largest suppliers of shrimp consumed in the United States.
Commitments made by multinational seafood buyers are driving change by producers. Our priority now is to get tools into the hands of small-scale producers across the region so they know how to make their farms more sustainable. We're providing them with a platform, based on Seafood Watch standards, to independently verify their progress.
Our work in Southeast Asia, one of the top seafood-producing regions in the world, can serve as a model to transform the industry around the globe.
Welcoming new partner Red Lobster
In the U.S., major seafood retailers are incentivizing their suppliers across the ocean to make changes. In 2018, we partnered with Red Lobster — the world's largest seafood restaurant chain, with more than 700 North American restaurants. Red Lobster has committed to selling only Seafood Watch recommended items by 2025. Business partners like Red Lobster are motivating leading seafood producers around the world to meet the growing market demand for sustainable products.
Advising the world's biggest seafood producers
Ninety percent of the seafood consumed in the United States is imported. That means the Aquarium's seafood sustainability goals are global — and have a global impact. With your support, over the last 20 years Seafood Watch has set the bar for seafood sustainability and is now advising some of the biggest companies in the global seafood industry.
We recently partnered with former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace to launch the Southeast Asia Fisheries and Aquaculture Initiative. The initiative is working to overcome obstacles to sustainable seafood production — both environmental and societal — in Thailand, Indonesia, Myanmar, Vietnam and the Philippines, in collaboration with regional governments and seafood producers.
We're already seeing results. At the 2018 Our Ocean Conference in Bali, Executive Director Julie Packard and Secretary Kerry announced two major commitments to advance comprehensive solutions and improve government policies to support sustainable seafood development in Southeast Asia.
Former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Executive Director Julie Packard at the Our Ocean Conference in Bali, Indonesia.
Senior Aquaculture Scientists Taylor Voorhees and Tyler Isaac visit a shrimp farm in Thailand.
Together with major seafood producer Minh Phu Seafood Corporation, the Asian Seafood Improvement Collaborative and global certification body SGS, we'll help bring 20,000 small-scale shrimp farms in Vietnam's Mekong Delta to a level equivalent to Seafood Watch's Best Choice — the highest rating for environmental sustainability — by 2025.
This commitment is a collaboration between the private sector and non-governmental organizations, all working together to address challenges for the small-scale farming families who make up most of the region's shrimp production. The collaborators will also work with the Carnegie Endowment to encourage policies that make it easier for farmers to ramp up the sustainability of their operations.
We also joined with Thai Union Group PCL, one of the world's largest seafood producers, and its Chicken of the Sea brand to launch SeaChange IGNITE — an initiative to advance and improve sustainability throughout Thai Union's supply chain. Thai Union's commitment pledges $73 million through 2025 to focus on improvements in Southeast Asia and other key seafood-producing regions. Like Minh Phu Seafood Corporation, SeaChange IGNITE will work with the Southeast Asian Fisheries and Aquaculture Initiative to engage governments, industry and other stakeholders to advance comprehensive approaches for sustainable seafood development.
"This commitment is an important first step in accelerating sustainability in fisheries and aquaculture in Southeast Asia," Julie says, "and will serve as a model for engagement for NGOs, governments and seafood producers."