Here, at the Aquarium, we are ocean—and freshwater—enthusiasts. For most of us, we spend all day caring for our aquatic animals, but still enjoy indulging in seafood! You may be asking yourself how this delight fits into our conservation goals and love of the ocean. Well, Ripley’s Aquarium of Canada has been involved with an organization called Ocean Wise for almost seven years. Ocean Wise helps guide our decisions when it comes to seafood. In honour of World Oceans Day, we invite you to meet Laura Irvine, Accounts Manager for the Ocean Wise Seafood program.

Along with being passionate about marine conservation and sustainable seafood, she is also an avid birder, hiker, craft beer lover, Raptors fanatic, and world traveler. Dive in with us to learn more about Laura and her role at Ocean Wise!

What is Ocean Wise Seafood?

Ocean Wise Seafood is a not-for-profit conservation program that makes it easy for consumers to choose sustainable seafood for the long-term health of our oceans, lakes, and rivers. We are one of many programs within the Ocean Wise Conservation Association. Our team is based in Vancouver, but we also have staff in Toronto, Quebec City and Halifax.

We provide the most recent scientific data to industry partners (restaurants, retailers, and suppliers) about the sustainability of the seafood they order to influence more ocean-friendly purchasing, and help educate those businesses so they can communicate sustainable choices to diners and consumers. We have over 785 incredible partners in more than 3,100 locations across Canada and beyond, and we participate in a number of industry-facing and consumer education activities throughout the year. The Ocean Wise symbol next to a seafood item is our assurance of a sustainable seafood choice.

What does “sustainable seafood” mean?

The United Nations has defined sustainability as “meeting the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.” Sustainable seafood means that we are fishing or farming seafood in responsible ways right now, so that we can continue to enjoy these species, and the healthy ecosystems that support them, for generations to come.

What makes a fishing or farming practice sustainable?

Sustainable fishing and aquaculture practices include:

  • Harvesting that ensures healthy and resilient stocks/populations
  • Effective and adaptive management
  • Limited negative impacts on habitats and other species

What criteria do you use to assess products?

Ocean Wise Seafood recommendations are generated from assessments using the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch (SFW) program methodology: Wild Capture Criteria and Aquaculture Criteria. Ocean Wise’s classification system is based on two categories: sustainable (Ocean Wise Recommended) or unsustainable (Not Recommended).

The wild capture audit methodology determines sustainability based on four criteria:

The aquaculture audit methodology determines sustainability based on ten criteria:

Where can I go to learn more about Ocean Wise and sustainable seafood?

There are a lot of great resources available online!

  • Ocean Wise Seafood – information about the program, sustainable seafood and a lot of other educational resources, including our seafood search engine where you can look up sustainability information on all kinds of seafood options.
  • Ocean Wise Conservation Association – information about other marine conservation programs such as the Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup, Plastic Wise, Marine Mammal Rescue, Arctic Connections, Research, Education, etc. For those kids spending a lot of time at home right now, you may want to check out Online Oceans for a list of fun activities and digital learning resources!
  • Aquablog – great articles on a number interesting sustainable seafood related topics
  • If you want to find Ocean Wise recommended seafood, visit any of our fantastic partner businesses and ask about their sustainable options. You can make a positive impact by choosing sustainable seafood every time you go to the grocery stores, markets or restaurants you love!

Marine conservation is actually my second career, after spending five years working in international development and research projects overseas. After completing my MSc in Marine Environmental Management at the University of York in England, I spent three years in Central America leading conservation and monitoring projects in local communities, mainly focused on endangered sea turtles. Then I spent another two years working on conservation projects in Ontario, this time with aquatic turtles, snakes, and benthic invertebrates.

There are so few opportunities to work on marine conservation projects while living in Toronto, so when the opening at Ocean Wise Seafood came up, I thought I must be dreaming! I have always been impressed at the collective impact of the research, rescue, community engagement, education, and industry-facing programs at the Ocean Wise Conservation Association—as there are many building threats as well as creative solutions out there for protecting our oceans. I enjoy working for the Ocean Wise Seafood program because our team is so incredibly passionate and dedicated to creating positive change, and we work with outstanding businesses that care deeply about making a difference too. My teammates in the organization and our Ocean Wise Seafood partners inspire me every single day!

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