Bad news, fam: It turns out there’s only a finite amount of sustainably-sourced seafood that can be caught at one time, and our growing demand for responsibly-sourced fish is only adding new problems to the equation.

That’s the conclusion reached in a recent article in Pacific Standard, and it gets worse. Because demand is so high, fisheries are fudging the specifics about their methods, locations, and catch sizes (they call it “blue-washing.”) If that’s not bad enough, some critics have claimed that the Marine Stewardship Council has certified some unsustainable fisheries in attempts to both meet rising consumer demands and satisfy its own budgetary requirements.


The piece also points out another big problem with the MSC: The fact that it gets most of its funding from license fees to those fisheries seeking accreditation seems like a major conflict-of-interest. An independent third party also double-checks each fishery that applies for a license as a single check-and-balance system, for what it’s worth.

The other major issues about our current sustainability certification schemes include:

  • General lack of oversight
  • Problematic standards labeled as “sustainable” by the MSC, such as longlines that can catch five times as many blue shark bycatch as the swordfish they’re actually meant to catch
  • Large retailers such as Walmart making sustainability promises they can’t keep: In 2006, the company stated that it would only supply fish from MSC-certified fisheries within the next 5 years. It’s 2015, and that still hasn’t happened—even though the chain was undoubtedly responsible for a major rise in fisheries seeking MSC accreditation since 2006.

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In the meantime, if you’re concerned about the seafood you’re buying, you can check out individual types of fish with the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch, or track the progress of specific fisheries’ sustainability standards with FishSource.

[via Pacific Standard]