Did you pack a tuna salad for lunch? Or are you going out for sushi tonight?

Make sure to reach for a more sustainable option.

Since November is Ocean Wise Month, it’s time we dive deep into the issue of sustainable seafood. Three-quarters of the planet is covered in ocean. Billions of people around the world depend on our oceans for food – and for their livelihoods. It might be easy to assume that the ocean will provide an unlimited supply of seafood to feed us. But that just isn’t the case.

Over 85% of fisheries are at their very limit and growing consumer demand isn’t helping matters. Many fisheries try to meet this demand through unsustainable practices, which in turn, threatens marine ecosystems further and stresses many of the species that we rely on.

What problems are our oceans facing?

1. Overfishing

Overfishing is one of the main threats to the health of our oceans. Many companies prioritize profit over ecologically sound practices and fish for species faster than the rate at which aquatic species are able to reproduce. Coastal communities whose economies depend on healthy aquatic ecosystems are also affected.

2. Bycatch

Many fisheries use commercial gear designed to maximize catch, which may seem beneficial, but it ends up catching species that were not intended to be caught – a term called bycatch. Species such as seabirds, sea turtles, dolphins, and sharks are often mistakenly caught and discarded at sea (and are often injured or killed in the process). According to a report by environmental group Oceana, global bycatch totals to an astounding 63 billion pounds per year. With bycatch and overfishing, this equates to an unbelievable amount of waste.

3. Habitat Destruction

Certain fishing practices, such as trawling, negatively affect water quality and marine habitats that are crucial for fish to spawn, breed, or find shelter for survival.

4. Species Imbalance

Dominating species and predators such as sharks and tuna are often overfished, which throws the food chain off balance. With many natural predators gone, smaller species at the bottom of the food chain build up in numbers and consequently, problems such as excessive algae growth arise.

So, how can we help?

  1. Choose Ocean Wise seafood in Canada or use the Seafood Watch app in the US. Next time you’re shopping at the grocery or seafood store, reach for Ocean Wise labeled products.
  2. Dining out? Keep your eyes peeled for the Ocean Wise logo on the menus. Here’s a list of restaurants  that serve Ocean Wise seafood.
  3. Educate yourself. Read more about these issues and share these with your friends: BBC Earth and from David Suzuki
  4. Don’t forget about plant-based proteins! The most eco-friendly protein source on the planet is plants! Choose beans, lentils and organic tofu and tempeh most often and keep sustainable seafood to 2-3 meals per week.

Takeaway message? As consumers, we need to vote for positive change with our dollar. The few extra bucks on that sustainable seafood will help support businesses that care about sustainability and conserving our ocean ecosystems. Our future food security depends on it.

PS…Thank you to Esther Huang for her help putting this post together!