Ka-bobsYour seafood choices can have a big impact on the health of our waters worldwide. October is National Seafood Month, and Shedd’s Right Bite team encourages you to be sure your impact is positive by deepening your understanding of issues surrounding seafood consumption and becoming an advocate for sustainable seafood. Seafood is our last major source of wild-caught food, and while farm-raised fish are increasingly common in the marketplace, the majority of seafood worldwide continues to come from wild populations.

Wild fisheries are now facing the same pressure that other wild food sources, like passenger pigeons, faced in the past—populations cannot naturally sustain themselves because of growing demand. To prevent our favorite wild seafood populations from declining beyond repair, we need sustainable fisheries management.

What does sustainable fisheries management look like? Unlike in an agriculture or aquaculture setting,fisheries managers have little control over the environment and the growth and reproduction of fish. Careful monitoring and assessment is needed to determine the amount of fishing pressure that the population can handle. Fishing regulations such as catch quotas, gear requirements and boundaries, coupled with monitoring, can guide managers and fishing fleets toward more sustainable fisheries. By setting standards for fisheries, these rules benefit fish populations while also helping prevent conflict and competition between fisheries. While numerous fisheries today reflect ethical and sustainable management practices, too many still demonstrate an urgent need for improvement.

This is a complex issue, but the good news is you can help! When purchasing wild seafood, look for options on the Right Bite “best choice” list. These options are caught by fisheries with management practices that help improve wild populations and limit damage to the environment. By choosing these options, you’re supporting the fisheries that use sustainable practices and putting competitive pressure on the fisheries that don’t. Another way you can make a difference is to mix it up! Many seafood options are overlooked in favor of popular items like shrimp, salmon and tuna. Be adventuresome (with our Fish of the Month recommendations) and try some of the less popular but equally tasty seafood options. You’ll help relieve pressure on overfished species and ensure healthy wild populations for years to come.

Madeline Caldwell, Great Lakes sustainability team