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Local Seafood Just Makes Good Sense

Seafood is delicious, healthy and fast disappearing from our oceans. America's insatiable appetite for a limited number of menu items like cod, salmon, tuna, and shrimp has contributed to the decimation of these fisheries, damaged marine habitats, and fueled destructive seafood farming practices in foreign countries. With an estimated 90% of the world's big fish gone from this planet and 70% of the world's fisheries stretched to their limits, it is time to make more sensible seafood choices.

Here are the questions used to determine whether a type of seafood is sustainable:

What is the seafood source?

Is the seafood from local sources, from other parts of the U.S, or imported? This is important because, like many other commodities, seafood can now be transported all over the globe. Seafood from local sources has the potential to be fresher and reduces the financial and environmental costs of long distance transport. Additionally, U.S. fisheries are better managed than most foreign fisheries. These factors are important when considering where a seafood item might originate.

How is the species population doing?

This seems like an obvious question, but in order to know if the seafood we are consuming is a good choice, we need to know about the life history of the species and if its population is abundant or disappearing. Some species easily reproduce in large numbers and grow to maturity very fast. Others, such as sharks, reproduce and mature more slowly. Understanding these factors is critical for good fisheries management. Abundant species from well managed fisheries make good seafood choices.

Is it wild-caught or farm-raised?

To meet increasing world demand for seafood, many species are now raised on farms, a process called aquaculture. In some cases, the wild stock of a species may be depleted, but there is a sensible supply from aquaculture, like Virginia oysters and catfish. In other cases, the farmed stock has been associated with problems and the wild-caught stock is the better choice, like some imported shrimp.  

How is the seafood harvested?

Are the fishing or aquaculture practices environmentally sound? To answer this question, we must understand fisheries and aquaculture techniques and how they are applied for harvesting different seafood species. Some fishing techniques, like bottom trawling or dredging, have the potential to damage the ocean bottom. Others may have unintended catches of fish, crabs or other unwanted animals. This is called bycatch and can even include accidental drowning of sea turtles or marine mammals. Finally, poorly managed aquaculture operations can damage coastal ecosystems. Well managed fisheries and aquaculture that utilize sound techniques to minimize bycatch and ecosystem impacts provide the best seafood choices.


Ways to Help

The Virginia Aquarium and Marine Science Center has developed a pocket guide, list of local suppliers and offers resources to help us all make better decisions concerning seasfood. Here are a few:

Buy Local

It may be surprising to learn that 90% of seafood presently consumed in the United States is imported, half of which is farmed in countries that have far fewer environmental regulations than ours. U.S. fishermen, however, provide some of the safest and environmentally friendly seafood in the world. Choosing locally caught or Virginia-raised seafood not only ensures freshness, but supports our economy. Oysters, clams, croaker, mackerel, striped bass, summer flounder, wild-caught shrimp, and in-season blue crab are some of Virginia's best seafood choices. Find out more.

Carry a Sensible Seafood™ Pocket Guide

The  Sensible Seafood™ Pocket Guide helps consumers to make ocean-friendly seafood choices. For example, local oysters and striped bass are listed as "Best Choices," while Chilean seabass and orange roughy are dishes to "Avoid." Use the guide when making choices in stores or when dining out.

Support Our Sensible Seafood™ Partners

Another way to make ocean-friendly choices is to support our Sensible Seafood™ restaurant and business partners. These partners agree to promote seafood listed as either a "Best Choice" or "Good Alternative" on the Sensible Seafood™ Pocket Guide with a focus on local products. Partners also provide information on Sensible Seafood™ to their staff and patrons. The Sensible Seafood™ Program has been endorsed by the Virginia Beach Restaurant Association. Check out the Partner List.

Enjoy the Annual Sensible Seafood™ Fest

The aquarium invites friends and foodies to this annual festival in May to sample foods from Sensible Seafood™ restaurant partners, attend cooking demonstrations by award-winning chefs, and learn about regional efforts focused on restoration, sustainability, and environmental stewardship. Attend the Fest.

Learn More to Make a Difference

Find out more about Sensible Seafood™, sustainable fisheries, and the future of our oceans. Check out our tips for recreational and sports fisheries. Find out more.

Local Seafood Makes Sense

U.S. fishermen provide some of the safest and environmentally friendly seafood in the world. Virginia's seafood industry is the third-largest in the country, producing vast amounts of blue crabs, scallops, clams, croaker, spot, striped bass, and oysters that are shipped all over the world. Choosing locally caught or Virginia-raised seafood not only ensures freshness, but also supports our local economy.