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What does sustainable seafood mean? 

Sustainable food systems are created by both supply and demand side factors. The most crucial factor on the seafood supply side is the sustainable management of fisheries, and the closing of the fisheries as needed. And, just like a well-managed fishery is willing to close its doors, a thoughtful buyer seeks out different species and what’s abundant at the time to help maintain balance. The species and fisheries that are a sustainable choice now may not be a sustainable choice a decade from now, and that’s why we like to shift the conversation from the term “sustainable”, which means different things to different groups, and rather focus on helping seafood shoppers make informed, responsible choices based on today’s facts. 

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Unfortunately, not all fish are created equal, and the question of what’s responsible is complex. For instance, there’s a misconception that farmed fish is a always less responsible choice than wild fish, and this is simply not the case. There are responsible options on both sides – wild and farmed – and there are bad practices on both sides too. Instead of pitting wild and farmed against each other, we should instead focus on educating ourselves on what we’re buying and diversifying our choices.

This is why we at Niceland provide buyers with the full story behind every fish we sell, from “sea to pan” as we say. Iceland is among a small group of nations, including the U.S., recognized for excellence in sustainable fisheries management. In fact, every species of Icelandic fish supplied by Niceland is certified sustainable by the Marine Stewardship Council (for wild) or the Aquaculture Stewardship Council (for farmed). For more information about what makes Iceland’s management of its fisheries so unique, check out our blog post about it here. You can also check out our standards for the farm-raised Icelandic fish we source here and here

Just like it’s not possible to say that wild fish are always the more responsible choice, it’s also not possible to say that buying local seafood is always the more responsible choice. Check out this New York Times article by seafood thought leader, Paul Greenberg. Let’s take the U.S. as an example – it’s a large territory with many fishing regions that have different management systems. This means the regulations of the largest fishing region, Alaska, don’t apply to every fishing region in the country. Some U.S. fisheries are in decline. The point is, depending on the species, how and where the fish was caught (or raised) and transported, local seafood is not always a better choice.

Thoughtful shoppers can make responsible choices following these tips: 

  1. Make an effort to know your fishermen – this is possible if you’re a coastal dweller, but also if you’re purchasing seafood directly online. 
  2. Choose seafood from responsible brands like Niceland who demonstrate commitment to sustainable sourcing and provide full traceability. 
  3. When there’s a friendly fish butcher behind the counter, ask questions! 
  4. Stay open minded to different kinds of species – for instance, our Icelandic Pollock is a succulent and mild-flavored fish that can serve as a delicious alternative to more known species like halibut and cod. 

Take advantage of the most comprehensive and reputable guides available, like the Monterey Bay Seafood Watch program. 

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