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How does the GMRI's Sustainable Seafood Initiative define sustainable seafood?

Sustainable seafood is harvested and produced in a manner that provides for our needs today without compromising the environment or our ability to provide for the needs of future generations. GMRI's work strives to enable both ecologic and economic viability, recognizing that they go hand in hand.

What is the Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested seal?

The Gulf of Maine Responsible Harvested seal identifies that seafood products that are harvested or grown and processed in the Gulf of Maine region. The seal also signifies that the seafood product has met the specific criteria around responsible harvest. The Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested program seeks to differentiate sustainable seafood products from known origins, while rewarding and acknowledging sellers, processors, and harvesters who engage in continuing sustainability efforts. Learn more about the Gulf of Maine Responsibly Harvested program and its criteria.

Some fish stocks are classified by NOAA as "overfished" and/or "overfishing" is occurring. What is the difference between these two terms?

Overfished is a term used when the abundance of the fish stock has dropped below what fishery managers consider a sustainable level based on a target biomass. While this condition is often attributed to excess fishing pressure, an overfished condition can also occur as a result of natural circumstances, even in the absence of fishing. Overfishing occurs when the amount of fish being harvested or caught exceeds what the species requires to maintain a healthy, sustainable level. Fish stocks can be both overfished and experience overfishing simultaneously. Similarly, a stock can be overfished, but overfishing is not occurring. In that instance, the stock is being harvested at a low enough level to enable rebuilding.

Is wild seafood more sustainable than farm-raised seafood?

There are a lot of factors that determine sustainability of seafood. Unfortunately it is not as simple as selecting wild seafood over farm-raised or vice versa. Sustainability depends on factors such as feed ratios and ecological impacts in farm-raised products, and harvest method and stock status in wild-caught products. Sustainability of seafood is not as simple as a wild seafood vs. farm-raised seafood debate. Rather, there are opportunities to support both wild and farm-raised seafood products that are responsibly harvested.

What do the terms "bycatch" and "discards" mean?

Bycatch refers to species of fish that are not targeted by harvesters and were caught incidentally. Bycatch can be kept by harvesters if regulations permit, otherwise the fish, whether it is dead or alive, must be thrown back. Discards are bycatch that are cannot be kept by harvesters because of regulatory or economic constraints.

What efforts are being conducted to reduce bycatch and habitat impacts from certain types of fishing gear?

GMRI's scientists work with fishermen to study the selectivity of gear (or how effectively gear catches only target species) and the habitat impacts of fishing practice. For example, increasing mesh sizes of nets allow smaller, non-targeted species to avoid being caught. Similarly, devising escape panels based on various fish behaviors, sizes, and shapes help fishermen avoid non-target species. This research, along with research from other institutions, has resulted in gear innovations like the Nordmore grate and the haddock separator trawl.

Similarly, our researchers are working on strategies to reduce gears impact on the sea floor by lifting gear off the bottom, decreasing the footprint of the gear, and mapping essential fish habitat to help fishermen avoid certain areas of sea bed that are important to spawning or juvenile habitat.

Learn more about all of GMRI's research projects.

What is the seafood industry doing to contribute to sustainability?

The seafood industry in the Gulf of Maine region is actively pursuing numerous sustainability initiatives that include, but are not limited to, sustainable seafood sourcing, improved traceability, collaborative research, and reducing energy use. Many seafood sellers have begun to implement sustainable seafood sourcing Policies. These policies focus on improving traceability and sourcing of sustainable seafood products that meet criteria around sustainability.

Is seafood good for me? What are the health risks of seafood?

Seafood is high in protein and low in saturated fat and calories. Fish is also an important source of omega-3, a fatty acid that has been attributed to heart health. That said, with the wide variety of seafood selections available for consumption, the health benefits vary from product to product. The way the seafood is prepared can also play a role in the health benefits received from the product. To gain a better understanding of the seafood nutrition facts and safe preparation, visit the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's Seafood web page.

How can I contribute to the sustainability of seafood?

There are many small things that you can do as a consumer to contribute to the sustainability of seafood. In addition to the information provided by the GMRI website, consumers can familiarize themselves with sustainable seafood products and issues by visiting the external websites listed on the Resources page. When purchasing seafood, ask questions about how the seafood was produced and where the seafood came from, as well as what the retailer recommends for sustainable seafood options. Be sure to support restaurants and retailers that are making efforts to promote sustainable seafood. Your purchases at these locations are a great way to reward the industry's sustainability efforts.