Seafood Watch Engagement & Outreach
Many people first become aware of Seafood Watch through its consumer pocket guide, with more than 60 million distributed since 1999. The original guide was developed in conjunction with a 1997 special exhibition about the impacts of fishing and aquaculture on ocean health. In its first form it was a tent card that was placed on tables inside the Aquarium’s cafe to inform visitors about menu changes sparked by the exhibition. The tent cards disappeared as visitors, staff and volunteers took them home to inform their own seafood choices when shopping or dining out. Responding to the demand, the Seafood Watch program was born two years later. Since its inception in 1999, the program has continued to help individuals and businesses make better seafood choices for a healthy ocean.
Today the rigorously science-based program engages a suite of audiences including consumers, businesses, conservation partners, chefs and governments around the world. By working with Seafood Watch, these entities are transforming the marketplace in favor of environmentally-responsible fisheries and aquaculture operations, which is ultimately shifting seafood production internationally in more ocean-friendly directions. A deeper explanation of the role that consumers and partners play is below.
Since the beginning Seafood Watch consumers have been the catalyst for the growing global sustainable seafood movement. In 1999 the Monterey Bay Aquarium aimed to raise public awareness about sustainable seafood issues by creating tools to help people change their seafood buying habits – and to let businesses know the issue mattered to them. Seafood Watch created the original consumer guide and placed it in the hands of conscious consumers demanding to know more about the fish on the menu. Later, Seafood Watch created the Seafood Watch app, a smartphone version of the original printed consumer guide. It has been downloaded more than 2 million times. The combined distribution and download of Seafood Watch consumer guides continues to push market demand for sustainable seafood throughout the entire supply chain. It has transformed sustainable seafood from a small consumer-focused conservation campaign into a global movement demanding seafood sourced in ocean-healthy ways.
Seafood Watch is empowering businesses, as well as consumers, to grow a market demand for sustainable seafood. The program shapes the buying decisions of nearly every major foodservice company and grocer in the United States, many restaurants and leading restaurant chains, as well as cruise lines and other large seafood buyers. More than 300 business partners in more than 13,000 locations across North America have made time-bound commitments to stop selling Seafood Watch “Avoid” items and preferentially source Best Choice or Good Alternative seafood items, with more businesses joining each year. Seafood Watch Business partners include North America’s two largest foodservice companies (Aramark and Compass Group); Whole Foods Market; The Cheesecake Factory; food delivery services Blue Apron and Hello Fresh; and many others.
The market-based approach reflects consumers’ growing awareness and concerns about issues affecting the world’s fish populations and the impact of seafood production on ocean health. Making a business commitment to offer ocean-friendly seafood is an important action to drive positive environmental change and deepen consumer loyalty.
Solving sustainable seafood’s biggest challenges requires collaboration on many levels. In addition to direct partnerships, Seafood Watch relies on a global network of collaborators to deliver robust, transparent and timely information from fishing and aquaculture operations around the world – including seafood analysts, suppliers and producers. Each entity makes a commitment to identify environmentally responsible recommendations on all product listings and provide accurate Seafood Watch information to its customers.
Conservation Partners include zoos, aquariums, science museums and other organizations that engage in and promote the Seafood Watch program in their communities. Collectively 100 million visitors a year learn about Seafood Watch and the importance of selecting sustainable seafood through conservation partnerships – currently, 230 Conservation Partners in nine countries. The program supplies educational tools, training resources and display materials to help each partner organization provide its visitors and communities with information about the global sustainable seafood movement.
There are no better advocates for food than the people who prepare it. The Seafood Watch program works closely with chefs and culinary educators, supporting their role as advocates for sustainable seafood. Chefs are tastemakers who influence the entire supply chain. They educate their customers about sustainable seafood species, build demand for Best Choices from the seafood suppliers and producers with whom they work, and raise awareness with policy makers.
At the core of this effort is the Blue Ribbon Task Force, a group of more than 60 top chefs and culinary educators around the country who are trend-setters among peers and who actively promote sustainable seafood.
In once recent example, as Congress discussed legislation that could weaken oversight of U.S. fisheries, Seafood Watch called on Blue Ribbon Task Force members. Seafood Watch accompanied three Task Force chefs to Washington, D.C., where they told elected officials how important strong, science-based U.S. fisheries are to the restaurant industry. In another example, Seafood Watch rallied nearly 200 chefs on five continents, who pledged to keep Pacific bluefin tuna off their menus until nations agreed to put the imperiled ocean predator on the path to recovery. The pressure contributed to a historic international agreement in 2017 on a science-based recovery plan for depleted Pacific bluefin tuna.
Seafood Watch’s combined engagement efforts targeting consumers, chefs, conservation partners and businesses is making a difference in how seafood is caught and farmed around the world. Today, the purchasing decisions at business locations worldwide are informed by Seafood Watch science. International eco-certification bodies are strengthening their standards to meet Seafood Watch criteria. And Seafood Watch is working with colleagues and governments throughout the world to help them develop homegrown sustainable seafood programs.