The Facts About Seafood Sustainability

Six Truths of Seafood and Seafood Sustainability

When you see the men and women who work the water to provide delicious, nourishing seafood to a growing planet, you see true stewards of seafood sustainability. But they rarely pause long enough to tell the tale of a protein that has nourished civilizations for millennia. Instead, misinformation and misrepresentation too often rule the narrative. Hyperbolic, so called documentaries, and distorted myths twist a reality that is focused on health and true science, both human and environmental. Let’s gather around for the real story of seafood.    

U.S. Fisheries are based on science and regulatory oversight

U.S. fishermen and women have proudly supported science-based approaches to marine fisheries management that have made our industry, and our fisheries conservation and management processes, a global model of sustainability. With science being the backbone of The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) regulatory system, the agency operates an inclusive and transparent system that has led the U.S. to be a world leader in seafood sustainability. NOAA’s continued success in fisheries management is guided by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act (MSA).

The MSA requires that U.S. fisheries be managed to sustainable harvest rates and to achieve broader marine biodiversity goals, including habitat conservation and protection regulations under the full force of law with the greatest footprint of any ocean governance process in the nation.

As a result, U.S. fisheries produce exceptional environmental outcomes, preserve vital cultural traditions, create jobs in communities across the United States, contribute to U.S. food security, and deliver the healthiest animal protein on Earth to consumers.

Global sourcing and seafood sustainability

When demand for seafood increases in this country we don’t simply pull more out of the water, we look to trusted trading partners around the globe to fill that need. What’s more, we look to aquaculture to complement seafood sustainability. These days more than half of all seafood on the planet is farmed. NOAA notes that production from wild capture fisheries reached a plateau in the 1980ies and spurred more aquaculture, which is now the fastest growing form of food production in the world.

NOAA’s latest fisheries report shows “the vast majority of U.S. fish stocks continue to be strong, successful and achieving long-term sustainability goals.” Meanwhile, data from the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) finds biologically sustainable fisheries produce 82% of the seafood we eat.

When it comes to the seafood community, sustainability continues to be a priority for globally and locally sourced products. 

Seafood is one of the most sustainable animal proteins on the planet

Despite the mass amount of confusing and contradictory messaging on seafood sustainability out there, seafood is one of the most sustainable animal proteins. U.S. fisheries are curators of the environment, producing one of the lowest carbon footprints of any protein across the globe.

The World Resource Institute’s protein scorecard ranks eating seafood as better for the planet in terms of impact on the environment, with both wild-caught and farmed fish have an enviable low emission footprint. In fact, a recent study found that certain popular wild-caught seafood products are more climate-friendly than a purely vegan diet. A recent New York Times expose about the impact of food on climate change also spotlights certain wild-caught seafood as “great low-carbon choices.”

The benefits of eating seafood

At a time when Americans are told to limit so many foods, seafood is among the handful of foods Americans are encouraged to eat more often. Fish is low in total fat, high in protein, and rich in vitamins and minerals, like selenium, vitamin D, and B vitamins. Plus, seafood is the premier dietary source of healthy omega-3 fatty acids.

The latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans encourage families to eat seafood at least twice weekly because of its heart and weight benefits. The Guidelines also underscore the importance for pregnant and breastfeeding women to eat more seafood to improve babies’ health. A staggering 94% of children and 80% of adults currently do not meet the Dietary recommendation to eat seafood twice per week. In fact, a study estimates that low seafood intake is responsible for about 84,000 American lives lost to heart disease each year, which makes seafood deficiency the second-biggest dietary contributor to preventable deaths in the U.S.

For pregnant moms, it’s more critical than ever to focus on eating nutrient-dense foods, like healthy seafood, to meet your growing nutrient needs. One of the most important prenatal nutrients is the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, which is vital for a baby’s healthy brain and eye development. Since your body can’t produce this healthy fat on its own, it needs to come from your diet. Fatty fish are among the best food sources of DHA.

Scientific approach to sustainability

When we’re talking about things like nutrition it’s important to remember that despite being a super food, packed with nutrients and vital components to health, seafood is still just food. It’s not medicine, it’s a meal. It’s allowed to be delicious, fun and not so serious. When it comes to seafood sustainability and fisheries management science is kinda serious.

A science-based approach to taking care of the stocks is a must and real stewards of sustainability embrace this notion fully. The goal of fishery managers is to maintain fish stocks near their Maximum Sustainable Yield (MSY.) Regulators target the MSY because it ensures the food resource has been made the most of without jeopardizing the future of the stock. In other words, feeding people now and later.

In the U.S. NOAA’s National Marine Fisheries Service spends nearly a billion dollars a year in support of science-based fisheries management. In the end, seafood is a science-based renewable resource.


In the U.S., the seafood value chain provides 1.7 million jobs and accounts for $170.3 Billion in sales. From exports, to imports and retail to restaurant seafood is a thriving sector that is the life blood of many communities. So remember, when you seafood, see jobs.

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