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60-Second Earth

Have Wallet Cards Helped Fish?

Or simply hurt trees and consumer's brains? David Biello reports

Americans eat more fish than ever. We now gobble up more than two million tons of seafood a year compared to just half a million at the dawn of the 20th century. Not only are there more of us, we're also eating more fish—globally.  

That's led to a global collapse of many fisheries , such as cod in the North Atlantic. To help forestall this ecological catastrophe a variety of sustainable-seafood certification schemes have emerged. And the Monterey Bay Aquarium released its first seafood wallet card in 2000.  

Intended to help sea-foodies avoid the worst fish, such as tuna or Chilean sea bass, wallet cards—and iPhone apps—have proliferated. But have they helped?  

The answer is no, according to a study in Oryx. Simply because the wallet cards are confusing.  

For example, even though the U.S. imports more than 80 percent of its seafood …wallet cards here focus mainly on fish from our national fisheries.  

Further adding to the confusion, different cards make different choices. Atlantic halibut is a no-go for most but Monterey Bay recommends it as a sustainable choice.  

After distributing more than one million wallet cards, Monterey Bay's own research reveals that they had no impact whatsoever—no changes in buying practices, no changes in the fisheries themselves. In fact, we're eating more seafood than ever and more of it comes from the least sustainable fisheries: shrimp, tuna and salmon .

—David Biello

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