While fishing is a beloved pastime, an important part of our diet, and a huge industry worldwide, it’s critical to the future of fishing that we make responsible decisions to protect both our planet and its many fish species. Here’s a guide to how you can do your part to employ sustainable fish practices.
Eat Lower on the Food Chain: Smaller fish tend to be more plentiful and contain less mercury. Great choices include sardines, oysters, squid, mackerel, and mussels.
Know the Sustainability of Your Seafood Choices: Different fisheries can dictate the health of the type of fish you are consuming. Use the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Guide to learn which fisheries provide the most sustainable seafood options.
Buy American: While American seafood isn’t perfect, it is a vast improvement over its imported fish counterparts due to stricter fishing and farming standards.
Know How Fish is Caught: The fishing techniques below are considered the most sustainable.
- Hook and Lining: A low-impact method of fishing using a rod with one line and several hooks. It is considered a responsible fishing method because it does not damage the seafloor and also allows fisherman to quickly release unwanted catches from their hooks, typically keeping the fish alive.
- Harpooning: Catching a larger fish such as a swordfish with hand-thrown harpoons or with barbs fired from a gun. It is considered sustainable since fisherman are aiming only at individual targets and bycatch is minimal.
- Pots and Traps: Well-designed traps have doors that allow young fish to escape. Skilled fisherman can lay pots so that they have minimal impact on the seafloor, leaving both the fish and environment unharmed.
- Trolling: This is another method of fishing that hooks fish individually. Different from hook and line fishing, trolling involves towing individual anchored lines from a moving boat. It is considered sustainable as bycatch is minimal and unwanted fish can be released quickly and safely.
Eat Local: You are always better off eating local, even if the fish is out of season (typically frozen). Fish that come from overseas or across the country are typically transported by air, the most energy-intensive method of shipping.
Look for the Label: The Marine Stewardship Council certifies seafood that is caught or raised in a sustainable, environmentally friendly manner. Look for the MSC-certified label for sustainable seafood choices.
Buy from Trusted Retailers: Many retailers have set higher standards for the seafood sold in their stores and have also pledged to implement long-term sustainable seafood practices. The Conservation Alliance for Sustainable Seafood Solutions has a guide to retailors practicing sustainable methods.
How do you practice sustainable practices with fishing or consuming fish? Please share!