We recently had the pleasure of dining at Lynn Crawford’s restaurant, Ruby Watchco for a seafood feast we won’t soon forget. The dinner, held with the Marine Stewardship Council and hosted by WWF CEO and former Toronto mayor, David Miller, aimed to educate Canadians on how to make better seafood choices.

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David Miller and Lynn Crawford pose for a picture in support of healthy oceans. Photo by Ryan Emberley.

Did you know that Canada is home to a quarter of the world’s coastlines and the only country with direct access to three oceans? It’s no surprise then that seafood is Canada’s second largest food commodity export and a staple in our diets. But as we all know, over-fishing poses disastrous environmental issues so it’s up to consumers to shop responsibly and avoid purchasing at-risk species.

It can be difficult for even a conscious seafood buyer to know what is best to get, never mind the average consumer. Here’s a simple guide to eliminate the confusion.

1. Know your labels. 

Maintaining the integrity of our oceans does not mean cutting seafood from our diets completely. The key is to make a conscious choice to consume only species that are abundant and harvested in a way that limits environmental impact.

There are a variety of labels you can look for when shopping for seafood to ensure you are making smart choices. Look for the MSC Certified Sustainable Ecolabel, a third-party certified international label that is a recognizable standard for consumers. The MSC Ecolabel ensures that seafood comes from a fully-traceable and sustainable wild-catch fishery. Regardless of the species, when you see the blue MSC Ecolabel, you can feel confident that your fish is coming from a well-managed fishery that meets the MSC’s robust standards for sustainable seafood.

Other common labels to look for include the ASC consumer label for responsibly farmed seafood, OceanWise and David Suzuki’s SeaChoice seafood labels.

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Look for the MSC ecolabel when choosing seafood.

3. Do a little digging.

David Miller recommends checking out This Fish, an app and website that allows you to trace the unique code entered by fish harvesters so you can see when, where and how your seafood was caught, down to the name of the fisherman and the vessel it was caught on!

 4. Ask questions and demand change.

Ask your fishmonger where your fish comes from and if it’s certified sustainable. Some grocers, such as Loblaws, have a commitment to source 100 percent sustainable seafood on their shelves and counters. If your seafood provider or grocery store doesn’t provide sustainable options, ask for them! Your demand for eco-friendly seafood options at the grocery store will ultimately drive the change in the fisheries.

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Lynn’s seafood dinner: MSC-certified Pacific halibut on lobster mash with Ontario asparagus and MSC-certified Pacific black cod on a heirloom tomato and watercress salad with maple bacon. Photos by Ryan Emberley.