The Future of New England Seafood

Attention shoppers: Finding local sustainable seafood just keeps getting easier

If you’re reading TalkingFish.org, you probably already know how important it is to make sure that the seafood you purchase is from a healthy fishery and was caught in a sustainable manner. But did you know that it’s now easier than ever to buy this sustainable fish at your local supermarket along with your regular grocery shopping?

Earlier this month, Shaw’s Supermarkets announced that it would be working with the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and the Gulf of Maine Research Institute (GMRI) to develop a new sustainable seafood sourcing program. Seafood products certified by the MSC will include various wild salmons and other Alaskan, Pacific, and Canadian fish. The MSC is a well-known sustainable seafood certification and ecolabelling program that certifies fisheries across the globe – you’ve probably seen their logo on seafood in stores or read about them in the news. MSC certification is not a perfect process but it is more reliable than no MSC certification.

Look for this seal in supermarkets to be sure that your seafood has been certified by the GMRI Responsibly Harvested branding program

If you want an even better certification for New Englanders, look for the GMRI label. GMRI is a regional nonprofit organization that uses science, education, and community to catalyze solutions to the complex challenges of ocean stewardship and economic growth in the Gulf of Maine bioregion.  Their Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested branding program identifies locally caught products that have met their rigorous criteria for responsible harvest. The GMRI-certified seafood products that Shaws will be selling include lobster, northern shrimp, cod, haddock, sea scallops and pollock, and GMRI is working with other supermarkets, including Hannaford, as well as with restaurants in Portland, Maine. This brand is a two-fer: GMRI fish has the benefits of responsible harvest methods coupled with lower transportation costs, which help with reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

This is great news for those of us who care about eating responsibly harvested seafood and about supporting our local fishermen and coastal economies – and of course it’s great news for New England’s fishermen, economies, and environment as well. Seafood traceability – being able to follow your fish along the supply chain from the fisherman who caught it to the place where you purchased it – is essential to ensure that the responsibly harvested fish we buy and eat is in fact harvested responsibly. Seafood certification programs such as those discussed above are a way for consumers to have more confidence in the sustainability of their food sources, and we commend retailers, restaurants, and the nonprofits with which they partner for making certified products available for shoppers and diners.

Consumers who are ready to take the traceability of their seafood to the next level should check out local community supported fisheries (CSFs), in which CSF members pay fishermen in advance of the season and then receive a weekly share of seafood throughout the season, and websites like sea2table.com and traceandtrust.com that allow consumers to find local restaurants serving fresh-caught seafood or to trace their purchased fish straight back to the boat and fisherman who caught it.


Comments

One Response to Attention shoppers: Finding local sustainable seafood just keeps getting easier

  • Gib Brogan says:

    While I respect your opinion on these two options for labeling seafood, I have to disagree.

    The MSC has a long list of issues related to the MSC’s sustainability claims that have been debated since its inception. There is an even longer list of fisheries that have been certified under questionable circumstances despite significant conservation and management issues.

    Even more questionable than the weak standards of the MSC program is the new program from GMRI that seems to have no meaningful standards other than vouching that the fish was caught in the ‘Gulf of Maine Region’ that includes all of the Gulf of Maine as well as Georges Bank. By their standards, if a fishery is managed, it is eligible for labeling and, conveniently, to pay GMRI its royalty for the label.

    For reference, here are their standards:

    Fisheries are managed by competent authorities and have management plans in place that incorporate a science-based approach to ensure sustainability.

    If stock sizes are below management target levels, whether due to natural or man-made causes, management plans are established that enable rebuilding within a specified time frame.

    Sufficient data exists to determine harvest levels.

    Monitoring and compliance measures are in place to ensure acceptable harvest levels.

    Enforcement exists to ensure that harvesters follow regulations, and to prevent illegal practices and unreported harvest.

    Can anyone think of an MSA-managed fishery that would not satisfy these standards?

    If everything can be certified, what is the value of the label? Other than straight marketing?

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