Why more Canadians are making the switch to sustainably sourced seafood

Oct 29 2021, 4:05 pm

Now more than ever, Canadians are asking questions about the food they’re consuming, whether through a conversation with their server at a restaurant or the deli counter clerk at their local grocery store.

If anything, the events of the past 19 months have prompted us to be proactive about maintaining a more sustainable diet, and that also includes paying closer attention to the labels on the food we purchase.

October is Seafood Month in Canada, so we thought it would be the perfect time to take a look at consumer habits on buying sustainably sourced seafood — and why more Canadians are changing their approach.

According to the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC), a non-profit seafood certification program dedicated to keeping our ocean and fish stocks healthy, North Americans purchased almost 50% more certified sustainable seafood over the past year.

Chef Charlotte Langley recipe (Brilynn Ferguson/MSC)

MSC Canada Program Director, Kurtis Hayne, reports that “55% of seafood harvested in Canada is MSC certified sustainable, compared to the global average of 14%.” On a consumer level, you can tell if wild-harvested seafood has been certified sustainable if it has the MSC blue fish symbol.

Hayne notes that, according to MSC data, Canadians purchased over $300 million worth of certified sustainable seafood bearing the MSC blue fish label last year — an amount that has almost doubled in the past three years, demonstrating increasing interest.

“More and more Canadians are looking for the MSC blue fish certified sustainable symbol when they purchase wild-caught seafood, which is a powerful way to support sustainable fishing in Canada and globally — and contribute to protecting the health of our oceans,” he says.

According to the MSC, consumer awareness of the MSC blue fish label has increased by 250% since 2016.

Pan-Seared MSC Certified Salmon (James Synowicki/MSC)

When we purchase sustainable seafood, we’re essentially taking a step to protect our wondrous oceans, which environmentalists have highlighted absorb 93% of the heat accumulated in the earth’s atmosphere. As a result, thriving oceans and fisheries play a massive role in helping the planet maintain a liveable temperature.

Closer to home in Canada, a total of 32 fisheries presently meet the standard for MSC sustainable fishing practices. This means they produce what qualifies as “blue foods” that contribute to healthy fish stocks.

MSC certified sustainable fisheries also reduce impacts to the ecosystem like bycatch (the unintentional capture of a marine species while fishing for another species) and the disruption of marine biodiversity in oceans and lakes.

This achievement, Hayne says, is the product of an immense group of people working behind the scenes — at every level of the seafood industry — to promote the importance of sustainable seafood.

Chef Charlotte Langley recipe (Brilynn Ferguson/MSC)

Looking ahead to the future, the MSC will continue its commitment to sustainability. Hayne tells us the non-profit has identified key areas that need further focus and cross-sector collaboration to support conservation and sustainability efforts.

This includes better understanding and mitigating the impact climate change is having on fisheries, continuing an investment in science to build upon the sustainable management of fisheries, evaluating and measuring the results of solution-orientated programs and plans, and accelerating the sustainable production of blue foods to meet the needs of a growing population.

Hayne says the findings from a recent Blue Food Assessment (BFA) study estimates that the global population will demand twice as much aquatic food by 2050, conveying the urgent need to both fish and shop in a sustainable manner.

While the MSC estimates that over 10 million tonnes of seafood comes from its certified sustainable fisheries, its data suggests that if oceans around the world were fished sustainably, the planet could provide sustainable protein for 72 million more people.

Getty Images

We can each take a powerful step towards protecting our oceans by looking out for the MSC blue fish label when buying seafood — and asking for sustainable seafood options at our favourite restaurants.

To learn more, visit the MSC website and their Instagram.

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