Seafood Watch Recommendations for Eastern Oysters
When asked to describe the tenants of New England seafood, Eastern oysters must be considered. Often served raw with a mignonette or cocktail sauce, these delicious shellfish are a favorite summer treat for many New Englanders.
However, for consumers living in the current geological age, it is more important than ever to consider where marine foods are coming from and how sustainably they are being harvested. Luckily, the Monterey Bay Aquarium publishes a Seafood Watch Consumer Guide to help consumers choose seafood that’s fished or farmed in ways that have less impact on the environment.
Recently the Monterey Bay Aquarium published summer 2018 recommendations for Eastern oysters. Eastern oysters farmed worldwide or caught in Alabama, Delaware, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas and Canada’s Southern Gulf of St. Lawrence are a “Best Choice”. In other words, these oysters are well-managed and caught in ways that cause little harm to habitats or other wildlife.
Eastern oysters caught in Maryland, North Carolina, Rhode Island, South Carolina and Virginia are a “Good Alternative”. The status of Eastern oysters in South Carolina is unknown, and they are depleted due to historical overfishing, disease and habitat loss in the other locations. Management is rated moderately effective overall in these states.
Eastern oysters caught in New York are on the “Avoid” list. The available data indicate the stocks are overfished. The conservation measures for this fishery are rated ineffective overall because there are no limits on commercial harvest and information about the health of the stocks to inform management has not been reported since 2005.
The Seafood Watch Consumer Guide is not all encompassing—notable oyster-producing states such as Maine, Connecticut and Massachusetts are not included. The guide is also geared toward providing information about the sustainability of large-scale aquaculture operations as opposed to smaller, local ones. Nevertheless it is still important to ask venders where they source their oysters and how they harvest them.
For more information, visit SeafoodWatch.org or download its app to get the latest recommendations for seafood and sushi, and locate or share businesses that serve sustainable seafood.
Sam Somera is a student at Syracuse University and editorial intern for Natural Awakenings.