Ocean wise: How to enjoy seafood sustainably
The Handbook / Eco / A guide to sustainable seafood

A guide to sustainable seafood

Ocean wise: How to enjoy seafood sustainably

Words— Jeremy Freed

Trying to make informed decisions at the grocery store can be a maddening exercise, particularly where seafood is concerned. Inconsistent and vague labeling—plus instances of outright fraud—can make it impossible to know if what ends up on your plate is part of the problem or part of the solution. Here are a few strategies to help you make a more informed decision in the seafood aisle.



View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ocean Wise Life (@oceanwiselife) on



Check the label


A lot of packaged seafood (and a growing number of restaurants) carry the stamp of two major seafood monitoring groups, Ocean Wise and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). Ocean Wise is run by the Vancouver Aquarium and is the more stringent of the two, evaluating each kind of seafood based on sustainability, its effects on the surrounding ecosystem and other factors. Seriously, they go deep. MSC’s system is similar but (according to Ocean Wise) they are less stringent when it comes to impacts that specific fisheries might have on other species. Either way, if something has an MSC or Ocean Wise stamp on it, it’s a very good indication.



View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Marine Stewardship Council (@mscecolabel) on



Support businesses who support sustainability


The sheer volume of information about fisheries and sustainability online is enough to make even the most die-hard fish fan lose their appetite. In light of this, one of the best ways to be assured of what you’re getting is to buy it from a fish counter that prioritizes ethical sourcing. One such retailer is Hooked, which has locations in Toronto and Halifax. Billed as "The Knowledgable Fish Store," Hooked’s mission is to share that knowledge (and a lot of delicious seafood) with its customers. Like all of the best sustainable fish shops, it deals directly with fishers and farmers to ensure the provenance of their products. If you don’t have a good independent fishmonger in your city, seafood counters at Safeway, Metro and Loblaws have all received decent ratings in a recent Greenpeace ranking, so they’re a good alternative. 

If you’re eating out, check the restaurant’s website for evidence of a third-party certification, or any other indication that they care about where their seafood comes from. Or just ask your server.



View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Hooked (@hookedinc) on



Have mollusks instead


There’s no easy answer to the question of farmed vs. wild seafood—except where mollusks are concerned. While farmed fish can be all over the map in terms of sustainability (fish farming is subject to a lot of the same kinds of problems associated with factory farming in other animals, as well as many unique ones) mollusks like mussels, clams, oysters and scallops are usually a safe bet. In fact, shellfish farms like those operated by Greenwave can actually help to remove greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, methane and nitrogen from the atmosphere! 



View this post on Instagram

A post shared by GreenWaveORG (@greenwaveorg) on



Try some new species


The bad news is that there may never be a sustainable option for the wild-caught bluefin tuna in your sashimi (although scientists are definitely working on it). The good news is that there are lots of other delicious varieties of fish and seafood that are very much still on the menu. Snow crab from the Gulf of St. Lawrence, black cod from Alaska, spot prawns from BC and pickerel from Lake Erie are all great choices according to the most recent Ocean Wise Guide, which is available in handy PDF form.



View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Seafood Watch (@seafoodwatch) on



Another great resource is the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app, which contains up to date info on seafood, and can even locate nearby restaurants with sustainable sourcing practices in the US. Being a responsible seafood consumer is a lot of work, sure, but the oceans—and all of the creatures in them—are worth it. 


Our Purpose

Designed in Canada. Made for good living. We’re dedicated to providing you with purposefully designed products, made ethically and sustainably.