Understanding the rankings: Aquaculture

Aquaculture (a.k.a. fish farming) involves fish or shellfish that is taken from cultured populat

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ions rather than form the wild. Sustainable Sushi uses the methods developed by the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program to appraise these operations.

The methodology is based on the analysis of five criteria:

1) Use of marine resources: What kind of drain is the farm on our natural resources? Many fish farms use wild fish as food for their farmed product. How many pounds of fish go into the farm to get one pound of salable fish out? Is the food fish drawn from sustainable sources? Are endangered species being used as food?

2) Risk of escaped fish to wild stocks: Fish farms are always going to have some level of escapes. What is the likelihood that this could be a problem? Does the same species already exist in the waters around the farm? Could the fish thrive in the local area, and establish a population? Is there the potential for cross-breeding?

3) Risk of disease and parasite transfer to wild stocks: Is the farm acting as a disease or parasite incubator? Could these pathogens and parasites potentially transfer to local wild populations? How is the farm controlling the potential disease problems?

4) Risk of pollution and habitat effects: Many fish farms discharge effluent into the natural environmental around them. Is this being mitigated at all? What are the chemicals and particulates that are being discharged? Is they having a deleterious effect on the local environment? How is the farm effecting the environment as a whole?

5) Management effectiveness: Some farms are very well-managed, while others are slipshod operations that pose a severe threat to environment. This criterion examines the strength of the management protocols under which the farms are operating and evaluates the effectiveness of their precautionary measures.

These five criteria are appraised and averaged to generate an overall ranking.

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