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Be an Ocean Activist at the Dinner Table

Our oceans cover 70% of our planet’s surface. The complex marine ecosystems that make up our oceanic environment are home to several million species of plants and animals. In truth, there is nothing else on Earth that even compares to the richness and diversity of our oceans.

Taking care of our oceans is our responsibility. The oceans provide us an immeasurable amount of resources, and stewarding our marine environment is a critical piece of ensuring that our planet is able to support human life and happiness for generations to come. 

Being an effective ocean activist means making daily life decisions in consideration of their potential impacts on our marine ecosystems. Some of the most common examples of this involve our daily choices around food. There is an inextricable link between what we eat and the health of our planet; we can use that link to either help our oceans, or to harm them. Those of us that choose to eat seafood need to make educated and responsible choices if they are to avoid doing damage to our planet and our oceans. 

One of the first steps we can take to protect our oceans is to make sure that we are dining responsibly, and that any seafood we purchase is sustainable. Seafood sustainability guides identify fish and invertebrates that are caught from healthy populations, and with a limited impact on the environment. Be sure to consult these resources before purchasing seafood to ensure that you are making the best choice possible to protect our oceans.

It’s important to note that the word “sustainable” does not have any sort of governmentally regulated definition in the United States. It is easy for anyone to emblazon a package or a website with that term, and as such, it’s important to consider the source. We have to ask ourselves: who is saying that a given fish or product is sustainable, and do they have a vested interest in doing so? Would they make money from saying so, even if it weren't true?

There are many different scientific organizations focused on this issue. Be sure to get your sustainability information from a third-party scientific source, such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch Program, rather than from corporate marketing language. Any company that is being honest about their sustainability will provide third-party proof to back it up. Don’t be afraid to ask questions or do some research!

Some basic guidelines that can steer us all toward products that tend to be more sustainable:

  • Choose local products over imported ones

  • Choose smaller fish (like sardines and mackerels) over bigger fish (like billfish or large tunas)

  • Choose wild salmon over farmed salmon

  • Eating lower on the oceanic food chain (shellfish, small fish, etc) tends to put less pressure on our oceans 

  • Try to eat better fish in general, and less fish overall

Making educated decisions when it comes to our seafood choices is an effective and important part of protecting our oceans. Not only can this help to protect endangered and overfished species, but it can help to keep our ocean ecosystems healthy and resilient. Thank you for doing your part!

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