The Science Behind Seafood Watch Recommendations

A solid foundation of science and collaboration underpins Seafood Watch recommendations, ensuring its audiences have robust and accurate information needed to influence positive change.

Seafood Watch Science Program
Seafood Watch scientists assess the sustainability of both imported and domestic wild-capture fisheries and fish farms. They compile relevant, science-based information and evaluate that information against environmental sustainability criteria using the Seafood Watch Assessment Tool.

In addition to fisheries and fish farms assessed by Seafood Watch, leading eco-certification bodies are also recognized. Seafood Watch scientists benchmark other eco-certification seafood program standards against its rigorous sustainability criteria to identify eco-certified fisheries and fish farms that Seafood Watch can recommend as a purchasing option for consumers and businesses.

Developing Seafood Recommendations, Monitoring and Evaluation
Seafood Watch focuses on the most common items available in the North American seafood market. Since the majority 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. The basic steps preceding a report’s publication are as follows:

  • 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.
  • Reports are updated at least every three years, or as soon as new information is made available.
  • New information and expert comments about any report can be submitted to Seafood Watch scientists for consideration via the online Seafood Watch Assessment Tool.
  • Information-sharing with other seafood ratings organizations, like the Global Seafood Ratings Alliance, a coalition of the world’s leading seafood ratings programs and spanning six continents. The Alliance maintains a comprehensive database of ratings and coordinate efforts around priority species.
  • Internationally, Seafood Watch partners with non-governmental organizations in Brazil, China, Europe, Japan, Mexico and Southeast Asia to stay informed of global fishing and aquaculture impacts, and to mitigate those impacts. Multi-stakeholder groups also advise the Seafood Watch science team on revisions of science-based standards of seafood sustainability.

More information about the specific criteria for recommendations is available at the Seafood Watch website.