Sustainable Seafood at 20 – Oceans of Progress

Created on Thursday, 11 May 2017

FishWise and our seafood stakeholder partners are celebrating 20 years of change and progress in the sustainable seafood movement. This movement got its start in the mid-1990s, and the 20-year mark is a great time to look back at the impact of our work together and the challenges that will define sustainable seafood’s future.

We have a lot to celebrate. Back then, regulations designed to protect the oceans weren’t working fast enough – and fisheries that fed millions of people and supported thousands of jobs were headed toward collapse.

Since then, the work of seafood business and conservation leaders has helped change the industry and make it radically different than 20 years ago:

  • In the mid-90s, sustainability was a complication that seafood businesses had to manage. Today, it’s an integral part of doing business, with 90 percent of the North American grocery market having made sustainability commitments.
  • Then, conservation groups and industry didn’t work as closely. Today, they are rolling up their sleeves together to tackle shared challenges.
  • Back then, a regulation-only approach was falling short. Today, we see signs of progress on the water.


Here at FishWise, we’re proud of the progress we’ve seen firsthand. For example:

  • We’ve seen incredible progress by our industry partners. In 2010, Safeway and FishWise set an ambitious goal for all of the company’s fresh and private label frozen seafood to be environmentally responsible by the end of 2015. By year-end, 77% of Safeway’s seafood by volume met the company’s 2015 commitment, including 99% of its private label frozen seafood. At that point in the partnership, we had transitioned over 29 million pounds of unsustainable seafood to environmentally responsible sources.
  • While environmental sustainability issues were front of mind for most of the movement’s history, human rights abuses in seafood supply chains are increasingly becoming more of a concern. FishWise has been and will continue to focus on empowering NGOs and businesses to expand into broader work on social responsibility, including addressing human and labor rights abuses in seafood supply chains. Our white paper on social responsibility in the global seafood industry serves as a useful tool providing guidance and resources for seafood stakeholders.


And we’re committed to addressing the challenges ahead, by providing guidance on multiple seafood-related topics, including:

  • Guidance on social responsibility and anti-IUU measures in seafood supply chains
  • Engagement opportunities for our business partners to get involved in fishery improvement projects
  • Guidance on traceability so sustainability claims can be verified by tracing products back through the supply chain.


Next month’s Seafood Summit will include a keynote address focused on the sustainable seafood movement’s first 20 years. Whether you’re going to the Summit or not, we hope you’ll join us in celebrating shared accomplishments and collaborating on solutions to shared challenges.

Those challenges are daunting, but a look back at our shared history reminds us the sustainable seafood movement has faced daunting challenges before. And we’re hopeful and confident that we will continue making progress, working hand-in-hand with our partners, together.