Wild fisheries (a.k.a. capture fisheries) involve fish or shellfish that are taken from wild stocks rather than raised in farming systems. Sustainable Sushi uses the methods developed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program to appraise wild fisheries.
The methodology is based on the analysis of five criteria:
1) Life history: This criterion examines the fish itself and whether or not it is the fish inherently vulnerable to fishing pressure. Questions include: Does it reproduce quickly, or slowly? How long does it live? How long does it take for the animal to reach sexual maturity? Does it migrate in ways that result in dangerous catch patterns?
2) Stock status: It’s important to look at the current population levels of the fishery. Is it currently being overfished? Has it historically been overfished? What is the general health of the stock?
3) Bycatch: A fishery often has deleterious impacts on co-habiting animals. This criterion examines whether or not the fishery causes undue harm by killing juveniles, endangered species, or other organisms in the area.
4) Habitat and ecosystem effects: Some fisheries can impact the very ecosystems around them through the removal of biomass or the destruction of habitat. This criterion attempts to identify these effects and to appraise whether they are damaging or relatively benign in the case of each individual fishery.
5) Management: Wild fisheries deal with common resources, and thus they require management to avoid over-exploitation. It’s important to identify if there is management governing a given fishery, and whether or not this management system has been effective in protecting the stock.
These five criteria are appraised and averaged to generate an overall ranking.