Your Love Letter to the Ocean: 3 Easy Actions to Support Ocean-Friendly Seafood

I got a call this morning from a woman in Indiana roaming the aisles of Target looking for ocean-friendly seafood.  She had a seafood app in one hand and a bag of shrimp in the other and she still had questions so she picked up the phone and gave me a call.

For the record, Target is taking steps to improve the sustainability of the seafood it sells.  They’ve partnered with FishWise, a California-based group that helps companies support marine conservation through their purchasing decisions.  Through their work with FishWise, Target has committed to sell only sustainable and traceable seafood by 2015.

But back to our fearless shopper–I was really impressed with her diligence.  It  got me thinking—here was a very motivated individual that really wanted to do the right thing.  If I had her on the phone again, what would I suggest as ways to make a difference beyond just following the advice of seafood ratings?

Here’s what I came up with:

1. Speak up.  I’ve heard from a number of supermarkets that they’ve had customers ask for ocean-friendly seafood and that’s what motivated the stores to make changes to the products they sell.  So next time you’re in the store, seafood guide in hand and you can’t find that seafood you’re hunting for—ask for it.  And if they don’t have what you’re looking for, ask the store staff to carry the ocean-friendly choice you’d like to see.

2. Tell a friend.  If the power of our voice is so powerful in the marketplace, imagine if there were a chorus of voices asking for the same thing.  How can you do this without coming off as preachy or weird?:

  • “Like” Blue Ocean on Facebook.  Your friends will see our info come up on your news feed and it’s a great way to introduce them to the issue of ocean-friendly seafood.
  • “Like” Be Happy on Facebook.  Blue Ocean is currently involved in a collaborative effort on Facebook—Be Happy.  It’s our way of introducing people to the topic of ocean-friendly seafood and we’ve teamed up with 7 other rockstar conservation organizations in the U.S. and Canada.  It’s a great way to get people into the conversation.
  • Rave about the ocean-friendly dish you had for dinner—“Last night we had the most a-MAZING Dungeness Crab.  I can give you the recipe if you like.”

3. Break the mold.  As I mentioned earlier, the woman who called me was looking for shrimp.  While there are definitely ocean-friendly types of shrimp, a lot of what you see in seafood cases and freezer aisles is imported, wild and farmed (shrimp was the #1 seafood import in the U.S. in 2010 at 1.2 billion pounds).  These earn a red rating in Blue Ocean’s methodology–wild because of habitat damage and bycatch from the gear used; farmed because of the environmental impacts of the farm. Instead of scouring the shelves for a shrimp you can be happy with, why not try something different for dinner tonight?–Pacific Cod, Mussels, U.S. farm-raised Catfish.  There are recipes for these (and others over at if you’re looking for ideas).

Have you ever tried any of these?  Share a comment to tell us about your experience.

2 Comments on “Your Love Letter to the Ocean: 3 Easy Actions to Support Ocean-Friendly Seafood

  1. So ocean conservation is now apparently about doing the market research for Target’s seafood department?

    • Ocean conservation involves lots of different issues that can be addressed. One issue is ocean-friendly seafood (there’s also climate change, which Blue Ocean also works on).

      Within the issue of seafood, there are many actions that can be taken. Here at Blue Ocean, we focus on educating consumers and chefs.

      Other actions organizations take in their ocean conservation efforts related to seafood are fisheries improvement projects, rallying around critical ocean policy issues or helping companies source more sustainable seafood. This final step is how FishWise is supporting ocean conservation–by working with companies so they can find more sustainable sources of seafood.

      That means you’ll find sustainable options when you’re in the store, and, given the scope of Target’s purchasing power, the positive impact on fish populations and marine ecosystems will be significant.
      ~ Kate McLaughlin, Seafood Program Director

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