At this point, I remain skeptical that sustainable seafood actually can exist at present time given the overwhelming pressures placed on the world’s oceans. Though perhaps very saavy aquaculture coupled with limited fishing and marine reserves can lead to a future with sustainable seafood from farming and wild sources. Monterey Bay Aquarium’s (MBA) Seafood Watch program has long been the standard for choosing sustainable seafood, and its pocket guides have been common for some time. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) is now getting into the mix with its own Sustainable Seafood Initiative that employs a “Responsibly Harversted” logo and its own seafood guide, which both promote seafood in the Gulf of Maine. What perplexes me is that the GMRI guide lists seafood “local” to the Gulf of Maine and encourages its purchase, but also uses the term sustainable….What is odd is that many local choices on the list are not sustainable, as least as defined by MBA’s Northeast Guide or me (e.g., sharks, tuna, cod) and others (read the book “Four Fish”). So the question is, can fish be considered to be harvested sustainably by individuals if in the aggregate said fish is harvested unsustainably?
UPDATE: Based on a facebook response, I would add the following: I’m taking issue with the GMRI Guide, not the Responsibly Harvested Label. But, if only 4 seafood items (Haddock, Northern Shrimp, American Lobster, and Cod) make the label, why create a guide that gives the impression that all “local” seafood is sustainable? There are two things going on here: (1) the guide arguably conflates sustainability and local, and, thus, (2) as other labels do, raises a question as to the appropriate definition of sustainability (local? sustainable by what standards?). You could argue, for example, that all lawful fishing is sustainable because it conforms with scientific management practices of the federal government. This definitional problem is further illustrated by Atlantic Cod, which can receive the Responsibly Harvested Label by GMRI but is on MBA’s Avoid List. So, if I want to eat “sustainably,” can I eat cod?
UPDATE 2: I should also reiterate my most basic rhetorical question: “Is there such a thing as sustainable wild seafood?”