Our Standards

General Rule of Recommendations

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. Unlike the Seafood Watch three-tiered traffic light system of Red, Yellow, Green, Ocean Wise’s classification system is based on two categories: sustainable (Ocean Wise) or unsustainable (Not Recommended). Ocean Wise recommendations are based on the following:

Wild Capture Fisheries

The wild capture methodology is based on four main criteria:

  1.   Impacts of the fishery on the stock in question
  2.   Impacts of the fishery on other species
  3.   Effectiveness of management
  4.   Impacts on habitat and ecosystem

Overall Score must be ≥ to 2.8 (out of 5)

A comparison between the Seafood Watch and Ocean Wise Seafood scoring is depicted in the table below.



The aquaculture methodology is based on 10 criteria:

  1.   Data
  2.   Effluent
  3.   Habitat effects
  4.   Chemical use
  5.   Feed
  6.   Escapes and introduced species
  7.   Disease, pathogens and parasite interaction
  8.   Source of stock
  9.   Predator and wildlife mortalities
  10.   Escape of secondary species

Overall score ≥ 5.5 (out of 10)
And no critical scores and not more than 1 criteria scoring < 3.33



In recent years eco-certification programs and logos have started to flood the marketplace leading to the question of which certification programs we recommend.  Ocean Wise Seafood supports the concept of independent eco-certification and recognizes specific certifications that have been deemed equivalent to the Ocean Wise Seafood criteria. In 2012, the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch program started comprehensive benchmarking study, to determine how different eco-certification programs equate to the new Seafood Watch sustainability criteria. As a result we can now recommend certain eco-certifcations. Learn more about the eco-certification benchmarking project here.


Marine Stewardship Council


The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification was benchmarked to a Seafood Watch yellow with a score of 2.38 which does not quite meet the Ocean Wise line of 2.8. As such Ocean Wise have defined some additional filters to the MSC standard to identify the top performing MSC fisheries. The table below presents how the MSC standard scored numerically against each SFW criterion.


The MSC standards are based on three main principles and an average score of 80 for each of the principles must be achieved in order to become certified.

Principle 1 – Sustainable fish stocks
Principle 2 – Minimizing environmental impact
Principle 3 – Effective management

The impacts on other species, and more specifically endangered, threatened and protected species (ETP), were identified as the area of main concern. These issues are addressed in the MSC’s Principle 2. Ocean Wise has therefore added the following filter to Principle 2 and around open conditions addressing ETPs.

Principle 2 score must be ≥ 84.5
There must be no open conditions around endangered, threatened or protected species.

In the case where there is both a Seafood Watch assessment and MSC certification, Ocean Wise will defer to the Seafood Watch assessment.

November 2017 Update – Canadian Fisheries Certified by MSC

In April 2015, MSC released new fisheries certification requirements (MSC 2.0) which have stricter criteria for demonstrating no negative impacts on fisheries and ecosystems through ten key updates. Given the importance of highlighting local sustainable seafood and the need for better alignment between the various rating and certification bodies, all MSC certified Canadian fisheries are now Ocean Wise recommended with the exception of fisheries where the Risk-Based Framework was used in Principle 1 and/or where objections have been filed by stakeholders. For the time being, MSC fisheries outside of Canada will still be subject to the previous two filters (Principle 2 score must be ≥ 84.5; there must be no open conditions around endangered, threatened or protected species).

January 2019 Update – US Fisheries Certified by MSC

All US MSC certified fisheries in the US are now recommended. As in the November 2017 update, the exception applies where the Risk-Based Framework has been used in Principle 1, or NGOs have filed objections. Additionally, in cases where there is both a Seafood Watch assessment and a MSC certification for the same fisheries, Ocean Wise will defer to the Seafood Watch assessment.

Aquaculture Eco-Logos We Recommend

Farmed Catfish (Pangasius)
ASC farmed pangasisus (PDF)


Farmed freshwater fish and carp
Naturland farmed freshwater fish (PDF)
Naturland farmed carp (PDF)


Farmed geoduck (giant clam)
Canada Organic Shellfish (PDF)
Food Alliance Shellfish (PDF)

canada-organic  foodalliance_shellfishecolabel

Farmed mussels
ASC Farmed Bivalves (PDF)
Naturland farmed mussels (PDF)
Canada Organic Shellfish (PDF) 
Friend of the Sea farmed mussels (PDF)
GAA BAP Farmed mussels (PDF)

asc-logo  naturland-logo canada-organic      friend-of-the-sea gaa-bap-logo




Farmed oysters & clams      

ASC Farmed Bivalves (PDF)
Canada Organic Shellfish (PDF)
Food Alliance Shellfish (PDF)


canada-organic  foodalliance_shellfishecolabel

Farmed scallops                                                           
ASC Farmed Bivalves (PDF)
Canada Organic Shellfish (PDF)



Farmed shrimp
ASC Farmed Shrimp (PDF)
Naturland Farmed Shrimp (PDF)  



Get Involved

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