Report Highlights Consumer Role in Sustaining Fish Stocks

A new study by the environmental research organization Worldwatch has found that consumers are playing an increasingly large role in dictating the terms of how fish and other seafood are harvested around the world. Brian Halweil, who wrote "Catch of the Day: Choosing Seafood for Healthier Oceans" for Worldwatch, reports that seafood eaters have become an unlikely ally to the world’s beleaguered fish populations.

©Spike Mafford

"Today, most of the world’s seafood, from tuna to salmon to bay scallops, is threatened with extinction," says Halweil. With industrial scale fishing having wiped out roughly 90 percent of tuna, marlin, swordfish and other large predatory fish in just the last 50 years, and United Nations surveys indicating that about two-thirds of the world’s major fish stocks are on the verge of collapse, Halweil says the key to staving off the elimination of a seafood industry entirely is in the hands of consumers. "A public that better understands the state of the world’s oceans can be a driving force in helping governments pass legislation to ban destructive fishing, mandate fishing labels that indicate how fish were caught and create marine preserves off-limits to fishing where fish can spawn."

The new Worldwatch report highlights various non-governmental initiatives to help save vanishing marine life, from color-coded seafood selection guides for restaurant-goers to targeted purchasing by large seafood buyers. Halweil praises such efforts for boosting the sales and reputations of participating companies, protecting jobs in developing countries where fishing is an important industry, and increasing the overall quality and safety of seafood around the world. But such initiatives represent only a small start, and Halweil hopes his report and other educational efforts can help individuals make choices better for themselves, their local environments, and the entire globe.