Making the right choices: Sustainable Seafood Practices at McGill

Considering the popularity of seafood, the continuing increase in the population of the planet, and the efficiency of powerful harvesting technology, it's not surprising to learn that global fish stocks are in danger of complete depletion. With this compelling factor in mind, the promotion of sustainable seafood practices has become all the more important.

A group of McGill School of Environment students decided to research sustainable seafood practices, with the primary objective to develop a system that would enable McGill Food and Dining Services (MFDS) to make more informed seafood purchasing decisions.

But what constitutes sustainable seafood? This was one of the first hurtles the team encountered. In the process of their research they concluded that there are two keys factors necessary for seafood to be considered sustainable, both in regard to the way in which it is harvested, as they explain in their report:

“We have defined ‘sustainable seafood’ as seafood fished or farmed in a manner which does not jeopardize the long-term health of any species in the associated ecosystem, and that is linked to economic harvesting practices that will allow for continued harvesting for generations to come.”

Through their research and the data they collected, the students revealed several compelling and alarming issues in regard to the seafood industry, with one of the most significant being that fish stocks are almost entirely depleted on an annual basis.  There is also poor regulation in not only the fishing industry but in the certification of sustainable seafood products. They also noted that sustainable seafood practices are often hindered by the difficulty in obtaining sustainable seafood supplies as a result of relative location to harvesting sources.

The team’s research methodology included interviews with Montreal distributors, who provided information on both the local and national seafood market, and the availability of what they believed constitutes sustainable seafood sources. Comparable universities to McGill were also interviewed to provide insight into how they are implementing sustainable seafood purchasing practices.

Ultimately, the research team created three final products for MFDS. The first of these products was an in-depth comparison and analysis of certification and recommendation institutions that evaluate seafood products. The second was a purchasing utility which consists of a comprehensive list of seafood products and local suppliers. Finally, they supplied a set of direct recommendations for MFDS based on the substantial research findings of the project.

The extensive research carried out by this team of students has left MFDS with the ability to make more informed and sustainable seafood purchasing decisions. However, considering the purchasing power of the MFDS, it may also push local suppliers to provide more sustainable products, resulting in an even greater regional impact.

For a more detailed look at the results of the team’s research you can click on the final report below.