Seafood Watch’s Expanding Scope

When Seafood Watch started, the mission was clear: to incentivize more environmentally responsible production of seafood. Today, the scope and gravity of the mission is bigger than the founders perhaps realized. The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch program continues to adapt to meet the evolving needs of businesses and seafood producers and lead the broader movement in support of a vision for sustainable fisheries and aquaculture for improved ocean health.

Seafood Slavery Risk Tool
Sustainable seafood isn’t just about the environmental impacts. Working conditions for the people who produce seafood are equally important. In response to requests from Seafood Watch Business Collaborators, Seafood Watch in collaboration with Conservation International, brought together NGOs to ratify a definition of social responsibility for the seafood industry. Working with Liberty Asia and Sustainable Fisheries Partnership, it released a new online tool in 2018 that helps businesses identify risks of forced labor, human trafficking and hazardous child labor in their supply chains.

Businesses can use the tool to identify seafood sourced from fisheries where these issues may be a problem, and work with suppliers to address them. The framework that emerged resulted in 50 corporations signing a commitment for the UN Ocean Conference to incorporate social responsibility into their sustainable seafood commitments.

Global Future of Fishing and Aquaculture
The Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch team, as part of the Aquarium’s engagement in global fisheries and aquaculture, is increasingly involved in other key initiatives addressing the health and sustainability of fisheries and aquaculture.

In Malta, Seafood Watch along with other global leaders, including former U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, gathered in 2017 at the Our Ocean conference to pledge meaningful actions to protect the health of the global ocean. The conference led to governments, nonprofits and businesses around the world pledging more than $8 billion to support sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, address the ocean impacts of climate change and stem the flow of plastic pollution from land to sea.

In Southeast Asia, Seafood Watch experts work on a number of fronts with NGOs and regional governments to help local fishermen and aquaculture farmers transition to more sustainable practices. In partnership with U.S. Agency for International Development Oceans and Fisheries (USAID Oceans), Seafood Watch is helping improve the traceability of seafood products entering the North American market. The partnership’s goal is to increase sustainable fisheries management in the Asia-Pacific region, the world’s largest seafood exporter and home to rich marine ecosystems. While that work focuses on Southeast Asia, the program has a long-range goal of improving aquaculture practices worldwide.

Seafood Watch is a member of the Conservation Alliance for Seafood Solutions, a coalition of leading conservation groups that work with businesses spanning four continents and representing more than 80 percent of the North American grocery and food service market – businesses that, directly or indirectly, rely on Seafood Watch science. Through these partnerships and collaborations, it’s estimated that more than 68,000 business locations reference Seafood Watch recommendations to help inform their purchasing decisions.

The Aquarium’s seafood and aquaculture expertise is sought worldwide. Members of Seafood Watch were invited to present at the first U.N. Ocean Conference in 2017; at the Our Ocean conference in Malta, also in 2017; and at forums for industry and government in both Japan and the United Kingdom, to help those nations advance sustainable seafood policies and business practices. Seafood Watch scientists now partner with former Secretary of State John Kerry and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, to advance seafood sustainability in Southeast Asia.

The Seafood Watch program remains grounded in the theory that consumer demand for sustainable seafood, coupled with business commitments to leverage their purchasing power, will drive fisheries and aquaculture toward more sustainable practices. Through expanding global partnerships and by sharing its knowledge, Seafood Watch will continue to lead the sustainable seafood movement, as well as initiatives critical to protecting ocean health.