More about environmental advantages of sustainable seafood

What are the environmental advantages of sustainable fishing and aquaculture?

  • Consideration of catch quotas to enable fish stocks to reproduce – only a certain amount is taken so that stocks can replenish naturally
  • Active fishery management and regular observation of fish stocks contributes to their recovery
  • No catching of fish that are still too young to reproduce through compliance with minimum size requirements when fishing
  • Consideration of the effects of fishing on habitats of fish and other sea dwellers
  • Reduction of unintended bycatch (e.g. fish and sea turtles that get accidentally caught with nets and hooks)
  • Protection of the natural environment and conservation of biodiversity
  • Monitoring for and subsequent prevention of illegal fishing, which is partly still carried out with extremely damaging methods and devastating impacts on the environment
  • Preservation of marine habitat and stable stocks also result in stable living conditions and nutritional supply of millions of fishermen and people, whose livelihoods depend on processing and sales of fish and seafood
  • In fish farming: strengthened control over use of chemicals, antibiotics and hormones

Can fish farming (aquaculture) solve the problems?

Sustainable aquaculture systems, farms for fish and seafood, are part of the solution and help to reduce pressure on fish stocks. Today, every second fish for consumption comes from aquaculture. [1]

It is still important to check the environmental effects of this. In some coastal regions, due to the creation of aquaculture, mangrove forests are destroyed – areas that are important spawning and recovery areas for many species. Conventional aquaculture can also contribute to the overfishing of the world’s seas because for fish farming, fish for feed is also needed. And this increases, rather than reduces, pressure on fish stocks.

Who is responsible?

Certainly, partial responsibility lies with politicians, who must demand sustainable fishing through laws and regulations and with trading companies, who must offer sustainable products. But consumers also have a responsibility and can have an influence on the fishing industry, through changed buying behaviour. In the end it’s the demand that controls what is on offer – and that’s our chance.

How can I help?

When buying fish and seafood products, choose sustainable products. This rule applies whether you’re buying wild caught sea or freshwater fish as well as farmed fish.

How can I tell if it’s sustainable fish?

It is easy to identify sustainable fish if it’s properly labelled. There are many products with appropriate labels e.g. MSC for wild caught fish or ASC for aquaculture / farmed fish.

There are also some ‘Bio’ / organic labels that guarantee sustainability of farmed fish products.

When buying fish from your fishmonger or from the fish counter at the supermarket, look for relevant notices or talk to the fishmonger.


show references for this article

[1] Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). The State of World Fisheries and Aquaculture 2014. Rome. Page III;