Seafood Watch

Seafood Watch Logo
Seafood Watch logo. ©Monterey Bay Aquarium

The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program works to broaden awareness of the connection between the seafood on our plates and the health of our oceans by helping consumers and businesses choose seafood that supports environmentally responsible fishing and fish farming practices.

The Seafood Watch Press kit contains:

  1. Program Overview
  2. Science Program Overview
  3. Business Program Overview
  4. Outreach Program Overview
  5. Ocean Conservation Policy

Download Press Kit as PDF

Seafood Watch Summary

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch® program is a globally respected source of science-based recommendations for sustainable seafood from wild-caught and farmed sources. The recommendations are developed through a process driven by the program’s vision of sustainable seafood: seafood from sources that can maintain or increase production without jeopardizing the structure and function of affected ecosystems. Based on rigorous criteria, assessments indicate which seafood sold on the North American market are a “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative,” and which ones to “Avoid.” 

Seafood Watch recommendations empower consumers and businesses to make choices for a healthy ocean, helping support diverse marine ecosystems for the future. The program also raises awareness through its printable guides, website, mobile app, and partnerships with businesses, zoos, aquariums, culinary leaders and conservation organizations. 

Increasingly, Seafood Watch is working on a global scale – taking a markets-based approach that harnesses the purchasing power of businesses large and small in order to shift fishing and aquaculture practices around the world in more sustainable directions. 

Basic Facts & Overview 

  • Seafood Watch employs more than 20 staff and enlists more than 50 contractors and reviewers who help produce approximately 75 new and updated recommendation reports annually, covering hundreds of wild-caught and farmed seafood species.
  • Seafood Watch has produced approximately 2,000 seafood recommendations since 1999.
  • Seafood Watch has distributed more than 56 million Seafood Watch consumer guides since 1999.
  • The free Seafood Watch App (available for iOS and Android) has been downloaded more than 1.5 million times.
  • More than 260 restaurants (and growing) and other businesses are part of our business program, committing to not serve “Avoid” items, and to educate customers and colleagues about seafood sustainability.
  • 1,000 businesses with more than 100,000 locations across North America reference Seafood Watch science to inform their purchasing decisions.
  • More than 160 zoos, aquariums, science museums, nature centers and other non-profits partner with Seafood Watch to promote sustainable seafood messaging.

History 

The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program started in 1999, as an outgrowth of a successful special exhibition, “Fishing for Solutions.” After learning many visitors were inspired by the exhibit, the Aquarium started the program to develop tools that could help people change their seafood buying habits. 

Seafood Watch has grown to be one of the most recognized and respected sources of science-based information for consumers, chefs and business professionals who want to make seafood choices that support a healthy ocean and healthy fishing communities. 

Key Program Elements

  • Developing science-based, peer-reviewed seafood recommendations that reflect a vision of an ocean capable of supporting healthy ecosystems and producing seafood to meet human needs for generations to come.
  • Educating the public by raising consumer awareness about sustainable seafood issues and encouraging people to ask for sustainable seafood whenever they shop for seafood.
  • Working with leading U.S. seafood buyers, distributors, retailers, food service and chefs to develop and execute sustainable seafood commitments that promote more sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, and create incentives for less sustainable ones to improve.
  • Cultivating a network of zoos, aquariums, science museums, nature centers and other non-profit conservation partners to extend the geographic reach of the Seafood Watch program.
  • Providing information and tools that help businesses and individuals assess the seafood they buy.

Program expert available for interviews

Media Contact 

For more information or to set up an interview with a Seafood Watch staff member, please contact Emerson Brown, Seafood Watch Communications - Associate Manager, Public Relations: ebrown@mbayaq.org, 831-647-6856. 

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
Business Program

USING THE POWER OF THE MARKETPLACE TO TRANSFORM FISHERIES AND AQUACULTURE 

The Seafood Watch Business Program guides and assists companies large and small as they shift their seafood purchases to more sustainable sources. This work helps move the marketplace towards environmentally-responsible fisheries and aquaculture operations. 

Seafood Watch’s 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. More than 50% of U.S. consumers say that buying sustainable seafood matters to them – and many are willing to pay a premium for seafood from ocean-friendly sources. Making a commitment to offer ocean-friendly seafood is not only an important action to drive positive environmental change – it's also good for business. 

Partnerships 

Seafood Watch business partners make time-bound commitments to discontinue selling “Avoid” items and preferentially source “Best Choice” or “Good Alternative” seafood items. Through the partnership program, restaurants, distributors and seafood purveyors are encouraged to purchase from sustainable sources, including seafood certified to select eco-standards and seafood from credible fisheries improvement projects (FIPs). 

Seafood Watch counts more than 260 businesses – and the number is growing – as recognized Seafood Watch partners. The wide range of business signing commitments with Seafood Watch include major retailers such as Whole Foods Market, contract food service providers Compass Group and Aramark, and even pet food producers like Mars Petcare. 

Example Partners 

  • ARAMARK
  • Compass Group
  • Bon Appétit Management Company
  • Mars Petcare
  • Whole Foods Market

A full partner list is available on the Seafood Watch website

Implementing a Sustainable Seafood Policy 

In addition to these formal, direct partnerships, Seafood Watch is a member of the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions – a coalition of leading conservation groups that work with businesses representing over 80% of the North American grocery and food service markets. Many organizations that belong to the Alliance rely on Seafood Watch science to advise their partners. As a result, an estimated 1,000 businesses with more than 100,000 locations across North America reference Seafood Watch recommendations to inform their purchasing decisions. 

Culinary Initiatives 

Seafood Watch works closely with chefs and culinarians from across the U.S. Chefs are tastemakers who influence the entire supply chain. They educate their customers about a diversity of delicious sustainable seafood species, build demand for "Best Choices" from the seafood suppliers and producers with whom they work, and raise awareness with policy makers. The Culinary program educates and activates this important audience with information updates and trainings, and supports culinary events and demonstrations at the aquarium and around the country.  

At the core of this effort is the Blue Ribbon Task Force. This group of leading regional and national culinarians from across the U.S. gathers to exchange ideas and understand how they can have the greatest impact in advancing sustainable seafood and the initiatives of the Seafood Watch program. The Task Force includes more than 50 members selected for their leadership roles in their respective culinary fields.  

Example Culinary Spokespeople

  • Jonathon Sawyer
  • Kerry Heffernan
  • Michael Cimarusti
  • Richard Blais
  • Rick Moonen
  • Susan Feniger
  • Virginia Willis
  • Rick Bayless

A full list of Blue Ribbon Task Force participants is available on the Seafood Watch website.

Experts available for interviews

  • Shawn Cronin, Business Program Manager
  • Sheila Bowman, Manager of Culinary and Strategic Initiatives
Outreach Program

HELPING CONSUMERS MAKE CHOICES FOR A HEALTHY OCEAN 

The Seafood Watch Outreach Program raises public awareness about sustainable seafood issues through the printable guides, website, social media, mobile app and public events. Since 1999, the program has distributed more than 56 million consumer guides, the app has been downloaded more than 1.5 million times and the program has reached millions more through public presentations, partners, the website and social media channels.

Public Outreach 

The Outreach Program focuses on individuals and families who make everyday decisions about seafood. By sharing Seafood Watch recommendations and informational resources, the Outreach program helps people protect the ocean through their seafood choices.

Conservation Partnerships 

Seafood Watch collaborates with zoos, aquariums, science museums, nature centers and other not-for-profit organizations that promote sustainable seafood by sharing Seafood Watch materials and messaging. Seafood Watch supplies educational tools, training resources and display materials to help each organization meet its own sustainability goals and provide its visitors and communities with information about the global sustainable seafood movement.  

Seafood Watch currently maintains more than 160 partnerships across the United States, Mexico, Canada and Bermuda. Partners engage in two outreach activities per year and also share Seafood Watch information on an ongoing basis: distributing Seafood Watch guides, promoting the Seafood Watch App, participating in community outreach events, in public programs/animal feeding shows, at special events, through exhibit graphics, by changing animal diets, in their onsite food service menus and by working with local businesses and restaurants. 

Example Partners 

A full partner list is available online at the Seafood Watch website.

Experts available for interviews

  • Ryan Bigelow, Outreach Program Manager
  • Karin Stratton, Conservation Partnership Manager
Ocean Conservation Policy: Sustainable Seafood

ADVANCING POLICIES TO SUPPORT BETTER SEAFOOD CHOICES 

Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Ocean Conservation Policy team works at the local, state, federal, and international levels to advance policies and management measures that protect the ocean for future generations, including policies to promote sustainable seafood. Pursuing the Aquarium’s vision of a future with a healthy ocean, the Policy team works to ensure that new laws, policies and other governmental actions support sustainable fisheries and aquaculture. 

Sustainable Seafood Policy Focus Areas

  • Improved traceability in the global seafood supply chain
  • Elimination of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing
  • Strengthening domestic and international fisheries management, including reauthorization of the U.S. Magnuson–Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act and advocating for strong conservation measures at Regional Fisheries Management Organizations
  • Restoration and protection of vulnerable shark and bluefin tuna populations

Learn more about the Aquarium’s Ocean Conservation Policy program at its website.

Recent Policy Initiatives

  • Provided recommendations to the Obama Administration on development of a new U.S. seafood traceability program that will help combat illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, reduce seafood fraud, and promote sustainable seafood products in the marketplace.
  • Brought industry partners and conservation groups together to advocate for stronger international fisheries management measures and improved seafood traceability to track a seafood product from source to point of sale, and verifying its sustainability.
  • Advised Obama Administration and State of California on Seafood Watch sustainability standards, which have become the leading seafood sustainability standard in the U.S. marketplace and therefore relevant to evolving federal and state fishery and aquaculture management policies.
  • Participated as a member of the U.S. delegation to international fishery management forums in the Pacific to urge for additional conservation measures to recover Pacific bluefin tuna, which is at less than 4 percent of its historical population levels.
  • Sponsored California’s 2011 shark fin trade ban and helped successfully defend California’s ban against a federal preemption claim, and federal and state lawsuits.

Experts available for interviews