What does ‘sustainable’ seafood mean?
Submitted by Sarah Coccaro, Conservation Resource Manager
Today, we know where our eggs come from. We know where our chickens were raised and if they had a good life. We know if our cows were raised in open pastures, and if they were grass fed. We know where our produce, our dairy, our meat comes from; we know what type of life it had and if it was a good one. And as consumers, we have that knowledge given to us right there on the packaging label to buy or support those products; to support humane living conditions, to be organic or sustainable. We have brand recognition. But when it comes to seafood, the market comes up short.
The term “sustainable” is confusing and vague, often creating more questions, especially when it comes to seafood: is this fish farmed or wild-caught? Where does it come from; is it nearby or on the other side of the world? What method was used to capture this creature? Are the populations of this species well-off enough for us to consume? And is this even the same species the menu says it is? What is sustainable seafood and what does ‘sustainable seafood’ even mean?
I’ve been a pescatarian for more than 15 years. I eat a primarily vegetarian diet but include fish and shellfish a few times a week. This was a personal choice, not a dietary one. My journey to find sustainable seafood has led me down many documentaries, articles, fish markets and even as a participant in a paid research study to look at local seafood options through Eat Like a Fish. I’m by no means an expert, but I’ve gone out of my way to learn more.
Even with my background in marine biology, I’m always amazed at how many local, edible species thrive in the waters near us, yet how little seafood consumers know about local species or seek these species out to eat.
These thoughts were the impetus for organizing the third panel discussion in the Greenwich Food System Forum, “Cultivating Connecticut Grown by Sea”, tonight, Wednesday June 1st at 7pm. The panel of shellfish and kelp aquaculturists, seafood education specialists and advocates will explore sustainable seafood in our state and will bring to light the difficulties aquaculturists face, as well as the work being done at a state and regional level to grow and advocate for a sustainable Connecticut food system by sea.
Connecticut’s aquaculture industry is an important agriculture sector. Aquaculture is the 7th highest valued agriculture product in the state; marine aquaculture is the largest sector. Yet, many are unaware of the local, sustainable seafood species that live in our waters. Farmers grow bay scallops, oysters, quahogs, blue mussels, and kelp. The discussion will also touch on ecological challenges that impact fisheries and businesses and how strong alliances and networks foster structural change within the [sea]food system. This is an excellent opportunity to engage aquaculturists and seafood advocates and better understand these critical issues.
Please visit The Foodshed Network to register and sign up for updates through The Foodshed Thymes.