Oceans in Glass: Behind the Scenes of the Monterey Bay Aquarium

How Your Seafood Choices Affect Ocean Life

Do you know how that tuna landed on your plate?

With nearly three quarters of the world’s fish and seafood stocks now fully exploited or overfished, it’s increasingly important for consumers to understand how their seafood dinner can contribute to the health — or degradation — of the ocean.

Some tuna are good sustainable seafood choices. But others such as bluefin tuna are overfished and should be avoided.

Some tuna are good sustainable seafood choices. But others such as bluefin tuna are overfished and should be avoided.

To help consumers make informed decisions, the Monterey Bay Aquarium has started the Seafood Watch program. It offers consumers tips on buying environmentally friendly seafood through a Web site and easy-to-carry pocket guides. “It’s been a staggeringly popular program,” says the aquarium’s Dr. Randy Kochevar. “We just passed the 5 million mark of people downloading the guides, and studies show that people do carry and use them.”

What do consumers need to take into consideration when they decide to serve shrimp, for instance? Researchers say that for every pound of shrimp that reaches your plate, up to 10 pounds of other kinds of marine life, from sea turtles to baby sharks, gets caught in trawl nets and thrown away. Worldwide, such “bycatch” constitutes up to a quarter of the total seafood netted and has had deadly effects on marine populations, including seabirds that get snagged on hooks and dolphins that drown in nets.

So what kind of shrimp should you buy? According to Seafood Watch, one good bet might be the smaller variety found in northern waters, typically sold as “salad shrimp.” They reproduce faster, and the fishing methods used to catch them are relatively eco-friendly. In particular, pink shrimp caught off Oregon are one safe bet identified by Seafood Watch.

The program also highlights fish species to avoid. Orange roughy and Chilean sea bass, for instance, are two deep-water species that have been seriously overfished. Because they are long-lived and reproduce slowly, it takes a long time for their populations to bounce back. In addition, they are caught using bottom-dragging trawl nets that can also damage seafloor communities. And for those concerned about their own health risks, Seafood Watch says there is another reason to avoid the roughy — it can be high in mercury, a toxic metal.

Although Seafood Watch has been effective, the aquarium is now ready to take its environmentally safe seafood campaign to the next level, by reaching out to the market and restaurant owners who buy large amounts of fish, shrimp, and shellfish. “We need to move further up the food chain,” Kochevar says. “Consumers are important, but the purveyors also need to understand how to make sustainable choices.”

If you’d like to learn more about Seafood Watch, visit http://www.mbayaq.org/cr/seafoodwatch.asp.

Production Credits Print

Web Credits

Producer
MARY HOPE GARCIA

Art Director
SABINA DALEY

Pagebuilding
BRIAN SANTALONE

Writer
DAVID MALAKOFF

Production Artist
YING ZHOU-HUDSON

Production Assistant
DIANA COFRESI

Technical Director
BRIAN LEE

About the Writer

David Malakoff is a journalist covering research discoveries and the politics of science for SCIENCE MAGAZINE in Washington, D.C. His writing has appeared in a wide range of venues, including THE ECONOMIST, THE WASHINGTON POST, and ABCNews.com.

Thirteen Online is a production of Thirteen/WNET New York's Kravis Multimedia Education Center in New York City. Anthony Chapman, Director of Interactive & Broadband. Bob Adleman, Business Manager. Carmen DiRienzo, Vice President and Managing Director, Corporate Affairs.

Television Credits

Narrated by
PETER COYOTE

Written and Produced by
DAVID ELISCO

Director of Cinematography
MARK SHELLEY
ERNIE KOVAKS

Editor
ROBYN ELISCO

Original Music
MARK ADLER

Line Producer
BROOK HOLSTON

Sound Recordists
RICHARD CHELEW
PHILLIP POWELL

Gaffers
JOHN CARNEY
ANDY OLSON

Marine Operations
JESSE WILLIAMS

Additional Editor
ELIZABETH WINTER

Post Production Manager
LINDSAY KELLIHER

Post Production Assistant
DEREK DOCKENDORF

Intern
ERIC BENDICK

Business Affairs
DENNIS LONG

Executive and Production Administrator
MONICA JONES

Bookkeeper
LINDA RALEY

Science Editor
TIERNEY THYS

Animation
INVISIBLE PICTURES

Stock Footage Provided by
OCEANFOOTAGE.COM:
BOB CRANSTON,
HOWARD HALL,
RICHARD FITZPATRICK

Special thanks
Apple Computers, Panasonic Broadcast, and Fujinon Broadcast
Sea Studios Foundation Board Of Directors
Bradley Zeve, Steve Dennis, Steve Webster, John Pearse
Mimi Hahn
Rachel Gomez
Stanford University and the Barbara Block Lab
The Staff, Volunteers, and Inhabitants of the Monterey Bay Aquarium

For NATURE:

Series Editor
JANET HESS

Supervising Producer
JANICE YOUNG

Producers
JILL CLARKE
PATTY JACOBSON

Associate Producer
IRENE TEJARATCHI

Production Secretary
RACHAEL TEEL

Manager
EILEEN FRAHER

Production Manager
JULIE SCHAPIRO THORMAN

On-line Editor
MARK SUTTON
BRUNO PELLEGRINI

Sound Mixer
ED CAMPBELL

Series Producer
BILL MURPHY

Executive In Charge
WILLIAM GRANT

Executive Producer
FRED KAUFMAN

A Production of Sea Studios Foundation and Thirteen/WNET New York

This program was produced by Thirteen/WNET New York, which is solely responsible for its content.