Fish to Lookout For When Consuming

I found this website very relevant to the cause of over fishing. When ordering at a restaurant and you want to know which types of fish are appropriate to eat, then this list will help. It shows fish that are near extinction or poorly managed and absolutely shouldn't be consumed, fish that are being threatened and should be thought about before consuming, and fish that are okay to consume because they are well maintained. It also goes on to briefly describe how that fish is currently doing and what its status is. This is the quickest and a very effective way to start change and help a cause. Enjoy!!!

The Fish List

No-No Fish -- Why you shouldn’t eat these fish:
Beluga Sturgeon (Beluga caviar). Overfished and unmanaged. 
Chilean Seabass (Patagonian Toothfish). Reaches sexual maturity very slowly; long-line fishing results in deaths of tens of thousands of albatrosses. 
Clams, dredged. Harvest methods cause habitat destruction. 
Groupers. Most species overfished; in many species, large adults are all males. 
Lingcod. Okay if from Alaska; overfished off West Coast. 
Monkfish. Overfished. 
Orange Roughy (Slimehead). Overfished; reaches sexual maturity very slowly. 
Oysters, dredged. Harvest methods cause habitat destruction. 
Rockfish (Pacific Red Snapper, Rock Cod). Overfished; slow-growing. 
Salmon, Atlantic. Wild stocks overfished; farmed escapees dilute gene pool; farms pollute oceans; wild fish populations depleted to feed farmed fish. 
Scallops dredged. Harvest methods cause habitat destruction. 
Sharks (shark cartilage, shark fin). Many species overfished; slow-growing; produce few young. 
Shrimp and prawns, farmed. Farming destroys mangrove forests, pollutes the environment with antibiotics and waste, and wild fish populations depleted to feed farmed shrimp. 
Shrimp and prawns, trawled. Trawling damages the seabed; massive bycatch. 
Sturgeon, wild. Many species endangered by habitat loss and overfishing. 
Swordfish, Atlantic. Severely overfished. 
Swordfish, Pacific. Stocks heavily fished. 
Tuna, Bluefin (Maguro). Overfished. 

So-So Fish -- Why you should think twice before eating these fish:
Crab, Alaskan King. Managed, but becoming overfished. 
Crab, Snow. Managed, but heavily fished. 
Lobster, Northern (clawed, American, Maine). Managed, but heavily overfished. 
Lobsters, spiny (langoustines, crayfish). Slow-growing; overfished almost everywhere except Cuba and Australia. 
Snappers, tropical (huachinango). Most species overfished; larvae die in shrimp trawl nets. 
Sole, Petrale, English, and Dover. Most soles and flatfishes are caught by trawl fishing, an ecologically destructive practice that often results in excessive bycatch. 

Go-Go Fish -- Why these fish are okay to eat:
Anchovies. Fast-growing; abundant. 
Bluefish, Atlantic. Fast-growing; abundant. 
Catfish, farmed. Fast-growing; herbivorous; raised in ponds. 
Cod, Pacific. Abundant; well-regulated fishery. 
Crayfish (crawfish, crawdad). Appropriately farmed. 
Crab, Dungeness. Well-regulated fishery. 
Herrings & sardines. Abundant in certain seas. 
Halibut, Pacific (Alaskan). Abundant; well-regulated fishery. 
Mackerel. Fast-growing. 
Mahi-mahi (Dorado, Dolphinfish). Fast-growing; mature rapidly. 
Mussels, farmed. Can be farmed without major environmental impact. 
Oysters, farmed. May help clean waters; those raised in nets don’t disturb seabed. 
Pollock, Pacific (Surimi, Krab). Not overfished, but fishery competes with declining northern (Steller) sea lions. 
Prawns, California Spotted. Captured by trapping; no bycatch. 
Salmon, wild (Alaskan and Californian). Many stocks sensibly managed. 
Scallops, farmed. Abundant. 
Shrimp, Atlantic Northern Pink. Abundant; captured without environmental damage. 
Squid (calamari). Abundant; most die after one year. 
Striped Bass, farmed. Inland ponds have little environmental impact. 
Sturgeon, farmed. Controlled inland rearing ponds with little environmental impact. 
Tilapia, farmed. Fast-growing; eat plants, not other fish. 
Trout, farmed. Raised in freshwater ponds with little environmental impact. 
Tuna, Pacific Albacore (Tombo Tuna). Well-regulated fishery causes little or no bycatch. 
Tuna, Yellowfin (Ahi). Abundant; fairly well-managed fishery; “dolphin safe” labeling and monitoring program reduces dolphin kills. 

Information courtesy of Dr. John McCosker and the California Academy of Sciences.

How can governments help with overfishing?

One remedy for overfishing would be global adoption of and compliance with the United Nations’ voluntary Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries, developed in 1995. The code provides a detailed consensus for responsible and equitable use of fishery resources, however evaluations of the behavior of the 53 countries who fish the majority of the global marine catch shows poor compliance with this code. Research of the 53 top fishing countries, involving surveys about adherence to the code measuring intent to comply, ratings of conservation versus economic aims, and the effectiveness of day to day compliance measures show many problems with expecting voluntary compliance with a code of conduct. Only six countries of the 53 surveyed exceeded the failure to comply threshold, and even those receive fail grades on some of the topics surveyed on. Most countries fail most at introducing ecosystem based management, controlling illegal fishing, reducing excess fishing capacity and minimizing by-catch and destructive fishing practices. 

Although many countries claim the intent to comply, the actual compliance falls below the intent by 9% on average. North America (Canada and the United States) scores high on intent to comply, but only in the mid-range on actual implementation of fishing policies. Developing regions such as Africa, Asia and Latin America fail in nearly every category, and the European Union has mixed scores among its member nations, showing the low priority given to improving fisheries management, even though the resources and knowledge exist to do so.

Cost for enforcement of the code and local legislation of fisheries management can be prohibitive. Code compliance seems to correlate with the countries scores on the World Bank governance index, showing that parameters such as political stability, violence, corruption and accountability impact the levels of voluntary compliance. Some developing nations such as Malaysia, South Africa and Namibia score more highly than several European Union member countries, showing that good management is not entirely resource dependent.

The voluntary nature of the current Code of Conduct for Responsible Fisheries means that there is no recourse for enforcing this code. Individual nations, especially developing nations, rarely address all of the areas of concern in their legal codes or do not have the resources for enforcement. Now that there is widespread scientific consensus on the impacts of overfishing and broad agreements on policy  issues such as limiting illegal catches, creating an international legal instrument that is enforceable should be the next step in protecting the marine ecosystems and future generations access to seafood.

Pitcher, T., Kalikoski, D., Short, K. (2009) Not honouring the code. Nature 475(5) pp658-659

Archival Tags On Blue Fin Tuna

I wanted to fully under stand the procedure that NOAA uses to track and calculate stocks of species and what I found was a tag method used on Blue Fin Tuna in the Atlantic. The trackers are quite valuable so rewards are offered for retrieval of the tags. 
What are archival tags? Archival tags are electronic data-logging devices that provide location estimates by measuring light intensity through a light sensor. They also provide data on swimming depth, water temperature, and body temperature of the fish. This information is collected on a daily basis and stored in the tag for several years.
How do you determine that a blue fin tuna has an archival tag? Archival tags are implanted in the body cavity of the tuna and only the light sensor protrudes out of the body.  However, these specially equipped blue fin tuna also carry unique external conventional streamer tags, with two-tone coloration, to help fisherman recognize these fish and return the archival tags. The external tags are placed about an inch off the dorsal midline on each side of the fish. On the white portion of the streamer tag it says “electronic tag inside cavity” and on the green side it says “Big $$$ reward”.  The reward offered is a $500 to $1,000 reward, and special instructions must be followed because  research depends on the successful recovery of these tags.  This is critical that these tags are recovered because it stored useful information on stocks like the blue fin tuna that can accurately measure the impact of overfishing or rebuilding.

The tag referred to in this article is B in the picture.

NOAA Results Are Encouraging ...

NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) recently published its Annual Report to Congress on the Status of U.S. Fisheries for 2011. Given that fisheries play a large role in the U.S. economy, NOAA (of the U.S. Department of Commerce) seeks to end overfishing and rebuild our fisheries. This annual report documents progress toward that end. And for 2011 the news is positive:

Stocks at a Glance
 Overfishing status
  • 222 stocks (86%) are not subject to overfishing
  • 36 stocks (14%) are subject to overfishing
 Overfished Status
  • 174 stocks (79%) are not overfished
  • 45 stocks (21%) are overfished
Rebuilt Status
  • 6 stocks declared rebuilt, totaling 27 stocks rebuilt to date
  • 51 stocks in rebuilding plans, with 6 additional plans in development
Summary of Stock Changes
 Subject to Overfishing
  • 2010 40 (16%)
  • 2011 36 (14%)
  • 2010 48 (23%)
  • 2011 45 (21%)
  • 2010 21
  • 2011 27 
Overfishing is when the rate of removal from a stock is too high. A priority for the U.S. is ending overfishing so that all stocks can rebuild and be sustained at rebuilt levels.
Overfished is when the population is too low, or below a prescribed threshold. A population can be overfished but be managed under a rebuilding plan that over time returns the population to health.
Rebuilt is when a stock has increased to its target population level after falling below the critical overfished level.

*taken from 2011 Status of Fisheries Fact Sheet

But be careful not to get too giddy with the good news. This applies to U.S. Fisheries only, where fish stock data is reliably used. Other countries around the world use catch data and the two are apples and oranges and subject to much debate. Stay tuned for more ...

How Commercial Fishing Works

Some sea fish live in the upper parts of the water. They are called ‘pelagic’ fish, and are caught by drift netting. This is where a net suspended from floats is stretched between two boats so that fish swim into it. Fish are unable to swim backwards, so once they are caught in the net, there is no escape unless they are small enough to fit through the net’s mesh.
Fish which live lower down – mid-water and bottom-feeders – are caught by trawling, which involves dragging a large net through the water, catching whatever happens to be in the way. The size of the net holes is again very important, and it is vital for the conservation of fish stocks that nets with a very small mesh are banned, as these catch young fish before they have even had a chance to breed.


Accountability Measures that Govern Overfishing in the US.

Some might say that unsustainable fishing practices began to change in 2006 when congress amended the Magnuson Stevens Fisheries Conservation and Management Act to require annual catch limits.
Annual Catch Limits or ACL’s are defined by congress as – The amount of a particular fish species, stock or stock complex that can be caught in a given year (usually measured in weight).
In order to end overfishing in U.S. waters the ACL’s required implementation by fisheries managers by December 31, 2010 on all stocks subject to overfishing, and for all remaining stocks by December 31, 2011.  So how are we doing on these deadlines?  As of December 31, 2011, 40 of the 46 fishery management plans had ACL’s and corresponding accountability measures in place. The remaining six management plans will have ACL’s in place that are affective in the 2012 fishing season.
This implementation process of monitoring the fisheries in the U.S. has become a model for international fisheries to use to create ecological and economic sustainability within the global fishing industry.  In the U.S. there are 38 fish stocks and 25 that are subject to overfishing.  ACL’s and were not required on all 38 due to international exemptions, but I suspect within a few years there will be more stocks subject to ACL’s because of the research and growing efforts to stop overfishing.
This step by congress started the change and now we must build on it globally taking all actions possible for the sustainability of ocean ecosystems. 

Myth: There are plenty of fish in the sea

People often think that someone else is the one to blame.  We forget to take accountability for ourselves, and our own actions that can be irresponsible.  Most people have heard, or even been told once after a break up that there are plenty of fish in the sea, meaning there is an endless supply if one relationship doesn't work out, and to not give up hope.  We take that into literal form, and begin to believe that in fact there are plenty of fish in the sea, and we don't need to worry about overfishing because it's not really a problem.  We believe that maybe for some people it is a problem, but because we still have many different options available at the supermarket that the problem doesn't exist for us.  In reality it does.  The population of fish has decreased immensely throughout history.  According to NPR people base things on what is considered normal, and normal changes over time.  A study revealed drastic changes in the ecosystem number of marine stock, or the population decreased over the past 100 years (Christensen, Guenette & all, 2003).  It takes decades for fish species to rebuild their population once on the verge of extinction.  The study sought out to find fish populations in the North Atlantic.  They estimated "that the biomass of the high trophic level fish species in the North Atlantic declined by two-thirds during the second half of the twentieth-century" (p.17).  This study indicates that fishing at great intensity is not sustainable.  The fish populations can't sustain the fishing industries demand to supply more and more.  The populations will continue to decrease until we notice that it is in fact a myth that there are plenty of fish in the sea, and we need to acknowledge there is a problem from the facts.

Christensen, V., Guenette, S., Heymans, J., Walters, C., Watson, R., Zeller, D. & Pauly, D.
Hundred-year decline Of North Atlantic Predatory Fish.

Officials: 40 fish populations being overfished

Federal officials say 40 stocks of fish populations are subject to overfishing in U.S. waters but say progress is being made to rebuild them.

An annual report on U.S. fisheries from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the number of overfished populations at the end of 2010 was up by two from 2009. But officials said Thursday that key stocks have been rebuilt and that the country is "turning a corner" in rebuilding fish populations.
Some stocks subject to overfishing include cod in the Northeast, red snapper in the Gulf of Mexico and Pacific bluefin tuna off the West Coast. Overall, about 16 percent of all fish stocks were subject to overfishing.
NOAA fisheries Chief Eric Schwab says 21 stocks of commercial fish populations have been rebuilt since 2000.

According to the Report on the Status of U.S. Fisheries for 2011, here is a list of several stock that have overfished status per region:


"The Columbian | Serving Clark County, Washington." Officials: 40 Fish Populations Being Overfished. The Columbian, 14 July 2011. Web. 22 May 2012. <>.

Biggest Barrier to Implement Changes

Ecological and Economical problems from overfishing are prevalent.  The United Nation’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reports that 80% of the world’s fisheries are exploited or depleted in some way by industrial fishing.  This causes major problems including the loss of species which translates into the loss of entire ecosystems and a risk of losing food for ourselves which affects aspects of our culture such as social, economical, and dietary reasons.  All three are connected and a balance must be accepted in order to maintain an equilibrium.  This is a challenge.  In order to implement change, three things are essential to transformation which is scientific understanding of the ecosystem, funding for the transition, and sound management.  The actions that must be done are safe catch limits, controls on by-catch, protection of pristine and important habitats, and monitoring and enforcement.  Restrictions and observations must be put in place.

In order to implement these changes and make them effective, the fishermen must be accepting because the backlash is the biggest concerns.  Fishermen do not want to adapt to changes as they would create less of a haul and less of a profit, so the risk and cost of a walkout, strike, or quitting is high. Without their approval, shady habits would certainly continue.  Since there is no incentive for fisherman to adapt, enforcement would be pivotal.  The cost of enforcing would be expensive because the fishermen who are affected are not going to be on board.  They desire a situation from the government that is short-term profit with long-term health of the resources.

What you can do to help: Support your local fisherman. Support fish that are easily sustainable and have high populations. Support other foods that are not animals in danger. Support the cause and dedicate. Fish are in danger and continually depleting our sources will eventually lead to extinction.


Sustainable Restaurants: Making a Difference in Overfishing

Many restaurants around the country have dedicated themselves to buying and serving sustainable fish. They are committed to helping combat overfishing and preventing further depletion of the most popular ocean species. Guidelines used by the Bon Appetit Management Company in its sustainability program Fish to Fork, for example, include using fish caught or farmed within 100 miles of the ocean distance to the restaurant, or within 500 miles from ocean to truck to restaurant. Other restaurants follow the guidelines put forth by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, and will not serve anything that does not have a green or yellow rating. This includes promoting local seafood and using lesser-known species and those lower down the food chain, such as oysters or scallops, in order to maximize flavor while minimizing environmental and ecological impact.

Three such restaurants around the United States are Bamboo Sushi in Portland, Oregon, Restaurant at the Getty Center in Los Angeles, California, and Turner Fisheries in Boston, Massachusetts

Bamboo Sushi’s motto is “Sustainable. Delectable. Possible.” In addition to using only sustainable fish in their sushi, they are dedicated to marine protection and help to fund The Berry Islands Marine Preserve in the Bahamas. Among their core values is to “Be Adaptable: Adaptability is the most important trait for the survival of a species…so why wouldn’t it be an important trait for a restaurant, or a sushi chef, or a server?”
Bamboo Sushi. 310 SE 38th Avenue. Portland, OR 97214. 503-232-5255.

Restaurant at the Getty Center is one of 400 restaurants around the United States managed by BAMCO, Bon Appetit Management Company. With the formation of their new “Fish to Fork” program, all of BAMCO’s restaurants will prioritize “fishing and aquaculture practices that are small-scale, biodiverse, and energy conscious, and that offer great flavor.”
Restaurant at the Getty Center. 1200 Getty Center Drive. Los Angeles, CA 90049. 310-440-6810.

Turner Fisheries is a restaurant “dedicated to supporting sustainable fishing practices that avoid over-fishing and environmentally destructive methods.” Local seafood is a feature of their menu which includes “New England Bouillabaisse,” “Island Mussels,” and “East Coast Oysters.”
Turner Fisheries. 10 Huntington Ave. Boston, MA 02116. 617-424-7425.

All of these restaurants have been rated by the website This website works to promote and provide seafood-sustainability ratings for some of the most popular restaurants around the world. To find more seafood-sustainable restaurants in your area, visit their website and search for restaurants by name or location.

“New Fish to Fork Program is an Industry First.” n.a. 20 Sep 2011. Bon Appetit Management Company. Web. 20 May 2012.
Bamboo Sushi. 2012. Web. 20 May 2012.
Turner Fisheries Restaurant and Bar. 2012. Web. 20 May 2012.
Fish2Fork. Frontmedia: 2012. Web. 20 May 2012.

Overfishing Awareness at Restaurants

I found this to be an interesting little tidbit of information...

Have you ever heard of the Ocean Wise program? It is a program, based in Vancouver, Canada, that helps create awareness in consumers regarding overfishing as well as sustainable seafood. On their website they describe themselves as "Ocean Wise is a Vancouver Aquarium conservation program created to educate and empower consumers about the issues surrounding sustainable seafood". What's more, Ocean Wise now has over 2,000 restaurant partners in Vancouver that display the Ocean Wise logo on their menus. These logos, sported by the menus, can help raise consumer awareness whenever a customer looks to place an order.

According to their website, an estimated 90% of large, predatory fish are gone from our planet's oceans.

"Sustainable seafood can be defined as species that are caught or farmed in a way that ensures the long-term health and stability of that species, as well as the greater marine ecosystem" (Ocean Wise).

Perhaps it's time that some of America's restaurants started showing support for such issues.

For more information on Ocean Wise, visit their website at:

Why should we worry about overfishing?

Why worry about overfishing? Why work on developing aquaculture and fish farming? To keep up with world appetites the global fish-farming industry will have to increase its growth. The reason is simple, current projections suggest that by 2030 the world’s population will have exceeded 8 billion people. Maintaining today’s consumption rates, of around 17 kilograms per person per year would require an extra 29 million tons of fish. Meanwhile, around half of all fish stocks have been deemed “fully exploited” by the FAO, with those deemed “over-exploited, depleted or recovering” now around 30%.

Studies by the University of British Columbia Fisheries Center show that globally we have run out of room to expand existing fisheries, due to past systematic expansion by industrialized fishing. The study showed that since 1950, fisheries expanded at the rate of one million sq. kilometers per year from 1950-1970, and tripled in the 1980’s and early 1990’s. Reduction in the growth rates during and after the 1990’s reflects a lack of space to grow in, rather than a greater awareness of the ecological impact. Chris Costello and Steve Gaines of the University of California, Santa Barbara have developed a method to gauge the health of fishery stocks and applied it to more than 7000 fisheries. They estimate that the fisheries are gravely depleted and have less than half the biomass they need to maintain their maximum annual yield. They also estimate 2% of fisheries have fully collapsed, with less than a 10th of the historical levels of biomass and that incidents of collapse are rising.

So not only have we run out of places to find fish, but the places we do have are already losing the ability to keep up with our current needs. 

Cressey, D. (2009) Future Fish. Nature 458(26) pp398-400

The world's fisheries are in an even worse state than feared, The Economist

Safeway, Whole Foods, Wal Mart, Costco, Kroger? How does YOUR grocery store stack up?

Since 2008 Greenpeace has produced an annual seafood retailer scorecard - a report entitled Carting Away the Oceans - measuring supermarket sustainability. In 2008, 100% of those evaluated failed. This year, for the first time, two retailers have earned 'green' ratings - marks of good - out of 20 evaluated.

Carting Away the Oceans VI - See full report, graphs, charts, & criteria here.

Safeway and Whole Foods take the #1 and #2 spots for having embraced sustainability practices. These are the only two that received 'green/good' marks. Wal Mart comes in at #12, Costco #13, Trader Joes #15, Kroger #16 - each of whom 'passed'. Which supermarket failed? BI-LO/Winn Dixie at #20.

There's been progress since 2008. Where all failed in 2008, 2010 saw 50% failing and 50% passing; and now in 2012 only 20% failed, 70% passed, and 10% reaching the 'green/good' level. As more and more supermarkets adopt progressive policies and seek to rid their shelves of unsustainable seafood inventory, we should see more edge up in to the green/good mark. Until that time, consumers are armed with a tool to help these companies get there - let your voice be heard. Demand sustainable products. Do not purchase unsustainable seafood, and let your favorite supermarket know why.
The Impact t of Overfishing on the extinction of ubiquitous species of tuna

The National Geographic article “Overfishing: Plenty of Fish in the Sea? Not Always” provides useful information regarding the negative impacts of the Ocean overfishing. In particular, the article affirms concerns about the risk of extinction of some of the ubiquitous species of tuna as a result of the high demands on the Japanese sushi in global market.  The article traces back the earliest attempts of overfishing to the 1800s when humans decimated the whale population.  By the mid-1900s, some fish that we eat, including Atlantic cod and herring and California's sardines, were also harvested to the brink of extinction.  According to the article a scientific report in 2003 estimated that industrial fishing had reduced the number of large ocean fish to just 10 percent of their pre-industrial population.  The article cites some studies that alarm against the impact of overfishing on the lives on the ocean. A study of catch data published in 2006 in the journal Science grimly predicted that if fishing rates continue apace, all the world's fisheries will have collapsed by the year 2048. To read more about this article, please visit the page

Ahmed Raeisi

Catch Share Programs – An Effective Way to Managing Fish Stock

What is Catch Share?  Simply put, it is an innovative approach to help fish and fishermen rebuild, recover and renew.
The Catch Share Program works on the following principles:
  • Managers set a scientifically determined catch.
  • The privilege to harvest a given percentage of the catch limit is granted to an individual, a group,or a community.
  • Fishermen are held accountable for fishing only their given percentage in exchange for this secure access to the fishery.
Fisherman with net
Implementation of Catch Share Programs:
According to the European Commission in 2008 they changed the European Common Fisheries Policy to include a “Catch Share Program.”  The Catch Share Program replaces complex rules dictating how fishing will be practiced, holding fishermen directly accountable for meeting vital conservation targets.  Under the Catch Share Program, fishermen, (including individuals or in cooperatives) are granted a percentage share of the total allowable catch.  They are given territorial rights to a particular fishing zone.  The only condition is to the number of fish caught, allowing more flexibility to fish when market conditions are at their best. Their share grows in value as the overall fishery improves, providing them a greater financial stake in sound resource management. By instituting the incentive to protect the stock, it also reduces the collapse of fisheries.
The Alaskan Halibut Fisheries are a good example of how the Catch Share Program can revitalize fisheries.  Prior to 1995, the season had shrunk so low as to only allowing about 3 days a year for fishing.  With only three days to catch all the Alaskan Halibut, the waters were overcrowded with boats and overloading their boats to the point of hazardous conditions.  After the Catch Share Program was implemented, the season now last eight months, and fishermen can better store and manage their catch, and are seeing improved profits.
Taking into account what has been accomplished by the Alaskan Halibut Fisheries, I think it is possible to regulate, while improving fisheries, and sustaining a healthy profit.