With global fish stocks in decline, scientists estimate that nearly seventy-five percent of the world's fisheries are fished to capacity or overfished. In Mesoamerica, populations of fish species such as the goliath grouper and Nassau grouper have collapsed, and other commercially important species like the Caribbean spiny lobster and queen conch are at risk.
As fishery stocks deteriorate and collapse, coral reef ecosystems are put in jeopardy, too. Numerous species that humans target for food also play critical roles in maintaining the ecosystem balance on coral reefs. For example, herbivores like parrotfish regulate the competitive relationship between algae and corals. When too many herbivores are removed, algae begin to overtake corals, depriving them of essential sunlight and causing their decline.
In order to protect coral reefs and promote responsible seafood consumption, our local conservation partners in Cozumel, Mexico, and the Bay Islands of Honduras have developed sustainable seafood guides tailored to their specific regions. Each guide uses a simple system to identify species that are safe for consumption, species that warrant additional cautions or considerations, and those to avoid altogether.
WHAT IS SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD?
For a species to qualify as "sustainable," it must be caught in a way that considers the long-term viability of the harvested population and the general health of the ocean.
In a sustainable fishery, fish species
• Taken from a healthy population
• Caught using methods that do not harm marine life or the environment
• Caught using methods that do not harm fishermen
• From fishermen or fisheries that are environmentally aware and responsibly managed
• Caught using bait that does not have any negative impact on the environment
These seafood guides are intended for a wide range of audiences, including individual consumers, restaurant buyers, and commercial fish suppliers. CORAL is working in both countries to ensure that key members of the seafood industry know about the guides and how to use them.
In Honduras, the CORAL Reef Leadership Network (CRLN) will conduct a targeted educational campaign that will train the owners, management, and staff of Bay Islands restaurants on how to sustainably buy, sell, and consume seafood products. Trainings will highlight the importance of considering seasonality, length restrictions, and capture methods when determining which species to purchase. Participating restaurants will receive an educational poster to display for concerned customers and to indicate their participation in the program. The CRLN will also train local fishermen on the latest fishery laws and the consequences of unsustainable fishing practices.
If you're traveling to the Bay Islands or Cozumel, please help us spread awareness by asking about the guide before purchasing seafood.