Seafood Information for Consumers

Consumers interested in sustainable fisheries and making informed seafood purchasing decisions should visit FishWatch for current information from fisheries managers.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has established a comprehensive web site to help seafood consumers make better purchasing decisions. The site known as FishWatch provides detailed information on the management and status of marine fisheries in the United States. Many consumers wish to make their purchase decisions in support of sustainable fisheries to better preserve our natural resources.

FishWatch Web Site Overview – Specific details are provided for each major species of fish and shellfish managed within the United States. This includes an overview of the species, sustainability status, management practices used in the fishery, life history, habitat, biomass, and historical fishery data. Additional fisheries information is provided in other areas of potential interest to fisheries management, terminology, gear groups, trade, and food safety.

Fisheries Management – The lead agency for fish management in the United States is the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), and FishWatch serves as a clearinghouse for relevant information available from the agency. Federal law requires fisheries managers to set harvest levels that will sustain healthy stocks. Guidance is provided through ten national standards driven by the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act.

Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Act Guidelines:
Prevent overfishing while achieving optimum yield
Be based on the scientific information available
Manage individual stocks as a unit during their range
Any allocation of fishing privileges must be fair and equitable
Where practicable, promote efficiency in fisheries
Take into account and allow for variations and contingencies in fish stocks, fisheries, and catches
Minimize costs and avoid duplications, where practicable
Take into account the consequence of fishery resources to fishing communities
Reduce bycatch or mortality from bycatch
Promote safety of human life at sea
Fisheries Glossary – NOAA provides a complete glossary of fisheries related terminology, and the guide is also available as a PDF download.

Fishing Gear Groups – Commercial fishing gear reflects the traditional methods used to catch fish. Each targeted species of fish and shellfish is a unique fishery that uses its type of fishing gear. Advanced technology has shaped the essential equipment to reduce unwanted bycatch and damage caused to the environment. FishWatch provides an interesting reference to all the equipment used in the major fisheries.

Profiles in Fishing – FishWatch has taken an exciting step at its site in providing brief biographies of people that work in the fishing industry. The people interviewed and highlighted include fishers, fisheries observers, agency representatives, administrators, and national legislators

Domestic and International Trade – Commercial fishing represents a major economic driver for many coastal communities and is a substantial component of the national economy. FishWatch provides the current data on domestic consumption of seafood in the United States. Import and export data reflecting both value and volume of seafood are detailed.

Seafood and Health – Fish and shellfish are a primary source of top-quality protein and these products are known for their health benefits. There are potential risks to consumers in purchasing seafood and FishWatch details suggestions to help in the process. Tips are provided for buying seafood, processing your catch, storing fish and shellfish, safe cooking practices, and the section on frequently asked questions is included.

The FishWatch site is an excellent resource provided to seafood consumers by NOAA. Any customer interested in avoiding the use of overfished or threatened fish stocks will appreciate the information presented. Related details from the NMFS add to the value of the effort. Nationally, fisheries management continues to be a major subject and FishWatch is one way to safe abreast of the newest news and trends in the debate.

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