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Sustainable Seafood Surging, But Not Everywhere

Last year, 23 million tons of seafood certified as sustainable was sold worldwide to the tune of $11.5 billion. Continue reading →

Last year, 23 metric million tons of seafood certified as sustainable was sold worldwide to the tune of $11.5 billion, accounting for 14 percent of global production, according to a study published by the International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD).

That marks a dramatic rise from just a decade earlier, when only 500,000 metric tons, or 0.5 percent of the global seafood production, was considered sustainable, the Canadian non-profit research group said.

To qualify as sustainable, seafood must either be caught in the wild or farmed in a manner that helps sustain the species harvested and the well-being of the oceans, as well as the communities that depend on fishing for their livelihoods.

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Wednesday's report, which studied the performance of the nine most common sustainability certification schemes, including Marine Stewardship Council and Friends of the Sea, showed that certified seafood production grew 35 percent annually over the past decade - nearly 10 times faster than conventional seafood production over the same period.

‘Significant investment' That spells good news in a world where 88 percent of fish stocks are already being fully exploited or overexploited.

"The rapid expansion of sustainable seafood practices is helping to address decades of mismanagement, which has led to the collapse of fisheries and destruction of fragile marine ecosystems," lead report author Jason Potts said in a statement.

In 2014, the overall trade value of the global seafood sector was estimated at $140 billion, making it one of the most valuable non-petroleum products traded internationally, IISD pointed out.

And around 10-12 percent of the global population relies directly or indirectly on the seafood industry for their livelihoods, it said.

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While farmed fish could help relieve the burden on wild fish stocks, it has also faced sustainability issues, and has in places been accused of destroying ecosystems due to feed and waste management.

Currently, 80 percent of certified seafood is caught in the wild, but certification of farmed seafood is expanding rapidly, the report showed.

Demand for certified seafood is meanwhile driven almost exclusively by Japan, North America and Europe, with manufacturers and retailers serving these markets accounting for most of the production.

At the same time, Asia, which accounts for 69 percent of global seafood production, produces just 11 percent of all certified seafood, Wednesday's report said.

This shows the financial benefits of certification have so far been very unevenly distributed, it warned, insisting government action and "significant investment" would be needed to expand certification in Asia and Africa especially.

An albacore tuna is caught by fishing hook in Bay of Plenty, New Zealand.

Atlantic Halibut

April 25, 2012 -

Whole Foods, the Texas-based natural foods supermarket, no longer carries fish considered to be unsustainable. The Whole Foods ban includes fish that is either overfished or caught in a harmful way, according to their website. The popular Atlantic Halibut made the list, though the company will still sell Atlantic cod that is caught by hook and line or gillnets. "Stewardship of the ocean is so important to our customers and to us," David Pilat, the global seafood buyer for Whole Foods told the New York Times. "We're not necessarily here to tell fishermen how to fish, but on a species like Atlantic cod, we are out there actively saying, 'For Whole Foods Market to buy your cod, the rating has to be favorable.'" Here's a look at the list of fish that the superstore no longer sells and why.

Octopus Whole Foods uses ratings set by the Blue Ocean Institute, a conservation group, and the Monterey Bay Aquarium in California. The ratings are based on factors including how abundant a species is, how quickly it reproduces and whether the catch method damages its habitat.

Imported Wild Shrimp "At Whole Foods Market, we've been saying that our mission is to sell only wild-caught fish that has been responsibly caught. For a few years now, we've used color-coded sustainability ratings, from green (best choice) to red (avoid), to help you make an informed choice. Now we're putting our mackerel where our mouth is: To support greater abundance in our oceans, we're no longer carrying red-rated wild-caught seafood!" the company wrote on its blog.

Tuna (from specific areas and catch methods rated "red") On their website, Whole Foods says that they stopped selling "species that were extremely depleted in the oceans, such as orange roughy, shark and bluefin tuna" years ago. The company uses the sustainability ratings of the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC).

Rockfish According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, "In recent years, reduced fishing has allowed many rockfish populations to recover from low levels. Gear concerns remain, however -- trawl-caught rockfish should still be avoided."

Swordfish Some of the gear used to fish swordfish "accidentally catches sea turtles, seabirds and sharks," according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Skate Wing Skates are in the overfished category. Most are also caught with bottom trawls, which result in high levels of accidental catch.

Sturgeon According to Monterey Bay Aquarium, "Sturgeon farmed in the U.S. is a good alternative to most wild sturgeon, whose populations have seriously declined due to overfishing for sturgeon eggs (caviar)."

Tautog Also known as black fish, Tautog are considered a "vulnerable" species. They are found close to shore on hard-bottom habitats, occasionally entering brackish water.

Trawl-Caught Atlantic Cod Fishermen often catch cod with bottom trawl, large nets that skim across the seafloor. Trawling, according to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, "damages marine habitats and produces bycatch."

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Turbot A cousin of Pacific halibut, turbot are a right-eyed flatfish -- as they develop, their left eye migrates across the top of the skull toward the other eye on the right side. Turbot are yellowish or grayish-brown on top and paler on their underside.

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Gray Sole Gray sole, a flatfish bottom-dweller, has experienced heavy fishing pressure from domestic and international fleets over the last half-century, according to Monterey Bay Aquarium.

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