Science Program

BUILDING A SOLID FOUNDATION FOR EVALUATING SUSTAINABLE FISHING AND AQUACULTURE PRACTICES

Seafood Watch scientists assess the sustainability of fisheries and fish farms – both imported and domestic – by compiling relevant, science-based information and evaluating that information against our criteria using the Seafood Watch Assessment Tool

Seafood Watch focuses on the most common items available in the North American seafood market. Since approximately 90 percent of seafood consumed in the U.S. is imported, the program’s science-based sustainability standards, and fishery and aquaculture assessments, serve a global sustainable seafood movement.  

In addition to fisheries and fish farms assessed by Seafood Watch, we also recognize the leading eco-certification bodies. We’ve benchmarked their standards against our own rigorous sustainability criteria to identify those eco-certified fisheries and fish farms that we are comfortable recommending as a purchasing option for consumers and businesses.

Developing Seafood Recommendations 

Seafood Watch scientists begin assessments by reviewing published academic, peer-reviewed journals, government technical publications, fishery management plans and supporting documents, and other scientific reviews of ecological sustainability. When evaluating fisheries and aquaculture practices, Seafood Watch research analysts also communicate regularly with ecologists, fisheries and aquaculture scientists, as well as members of industry and conservation organizations. After a thorough assessment of the data, the scientists apply our sustainability criteria to develop a numeric score and corresponding color-based recommendation. The resulting in-depth report is reviewed by experts from academia, government and the seafood industry. More information about the specific criteria for recommendations is available online

Recommendation Rating System 

  • “Best Choice” (green) – Buy first; they’re well managed and caught or farmed in ways that cause little harm to habitats or other wildlife.
  • “Good Alternative” (yellow) – Buy, but be aware there are concerns with how they’re caught or farmed.
  • “Avoid” (red) – Don’t buy; these items are overfished, or caught or farmed in ways that harm other marine life or the environment.

Finding & Using Recommendations

The website and mobile app (available for iOS and Android) offer a searchable database of all seafood recommendations. The website includes the full reports and associated scientific background for each recommendation. (updated monthly) 

Printed consumer guides are available through the Monterey Bay Aquarium and at Seafood Watch Partner locations around the country. The PDF version can be downloaded and printed from a personal computer and hard-stock versions (in quantity) are available for purchase directly from Seafood Watch. (updated twice a year)

Expert available for interviews 

  • Wendy Norden, Science Director