Frequently Asked Questions

What is Ocean Wise? 

Ocean Wise is a Vancouver Aquarium conservation program, created to help businesses and their customers make environmentally friendly choices. The Ocean Wise symbol next to a seafood item assures you that option is the best choice for the health of the oceans. 


How does the Ocean Wise program work? 

We work individually with each partner business to help them make sustainable seafood purchasing decisions. In turn, participating businesses identify these options on their menus or display cases with the Ocean Wise logo allowing their patrons to easily identify the most sustainable options. We are constantly working to source sustainable seafood options and our partners are committed to working toward serving only sustainably caught seafood. 


What is sustainable seafood? 

Sustainable seafood can be defined as species that are caught or farmed in a way that ensures the long-term health and stability of that species, as well as the greater marine ecosystem. Ocean Wise defines sustainability based on 4 criteria. An Ocean Wise recommended species is:

1.       Abundant and resilient to fishing pressures.

2.       Well managed with a comprehensive management plan based on current research.

3.       Harvested in a method that ensures limited bycatch on non-target and endangered species.

4.       Harvested in ways that limit damage to marine or aquatic habitats and negative interactions with other species.

Learn more about sustainable seafood.


How are the Ocean Wise sustainable seafood choices evaluated and recommended? 

The sustainability of each species harvested for seafood is evaluated on an individual basis. We review the current scientific literature and speak with researchers from governmental and non-governmental organizations, academic researchers and researchers from the Vancouver Aquarium. Learn more about our Ocean Wise recommendations.


What is the difference between Ocean Wise and the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)? 

Ocean Wise is a recommendation program, whereas MSC is a certification program. The MSC has developed its own standards for sustainable fishing and seafood tracabliity. Authorized third-party certifying bodies assess and audit the fisheries against the MSC standard. Ocean Wise and the MSC have different criteria for sustainability and thus not all MSC certified fisheries are Ocean Wise.


Is farmed seafood unsustainable? 

It depends on how the seafood is farmed! Some farming methods such as land-based recirculating tanks and shellfish farming have very few environmental impacts. Other farming methods such as open net pens and shrimp ponds which destroy mangrove forests are associated with negative ecosystem impacts. You can learn more about different aquaculture techniques here.


Should I be concerned about Fukushima radiation? 

Ocean Wise makes sustainability recommendations, not health recommendations. However, in 2014, the Vancouver Aquarium hosted a public talk by Dr. Ken Buesseler on the impacts of Fukushima radiation. You can access the video of the talk here.


Should I be concerned about mercury levels in seafood?

Ocean Wise makes sustainability recommendations, not health recommendations. For more information on health topics including mercury, please click here or check out the Environmental Working Group's Seafood Calculator for best choices for human health and healthy oceans here.  


Do I have to give up sushi in order to eat sustainable seafood? 

Not at all! Many sushi restaurants provide tasty sustainable alternatives such as wild salmon (sake), sablefish (gindara) instead of unsustainable eel (unagi), and albacore tuna (bincho) instead of Bluefin tuna. In fact, in March 2014, the first 100% sustainable sushi restaurant opened in Vancouver. You can read about it here. For a list of sustainable seafood used in sushi, click here. 


Where can I find Ocean Wise partners? 

You can find a list of our official Ocean Wise restaurants, suppliers, and retailers here. You can also download the Ocean Wise app for a full list of partners, assessed seafood items, as well as an interactive map which shows the location of Ocean Wise partners.


Does a restaurant have to offer 100% sustainable options to join Ocean Wise? 

No! We encourage partners to slowly replace their unsustainable items with sustainable alternatives over time, but all that a restaurant needs to join the program is at least one sustainable item to start with.


How much is the partnership fee? 

As a non-profit organization, Ocean Wise started implementing nominal partner fees in 2006 out of necessity, as the program started growing. The restaurant partner fee is $250 per year. Please contact an Ocean Wise representative for more details on supplier fees and additional location fees.


I am a restaurant owner. If I purchase seafood that is Ocean Wise, can I describe the seafood on my menu as being Ocean Wise? 

Only official partners may describe their menu as being “Ocean Wise” or use the Ocean Wise symbol and logo, as these are trademarked. Please click here for more info on how to join the program. 


What are the benefits of becoming an Ocean Wise partner? 

  • Up-to-date recommendations on seafood based on regular scientific reports. This is a great way to stay current and knowledgeable about the changing status of seafood species!
  • Ocean Wise symbol for easy identification on menus so that your customers not only have the chef’s assurance, but also the Vancouver Aquarium’s assurance, that the seafood item is sustainable.
  • A consumer-facing page on our website showcasing your partnership with a direct link to restaurant reservations via Open Table, and back end online access to our Ocean Wise resources included online staff training and our partnership activation kit.
  • Opportunity to participate  in our annual Chowder Chowdown or other events across Canada, where we help showcase and advertise the great work you are doing in sustainable seafood.
  • Our media stories reached over 112 million people in 2013 – the equivalent of $1.8 million in advertising dollars
  • Our partners enjoy exposure to social media. We reach over 4000 people on Facebook, 15,000 people on Twitter, and have a strong presence on Instagram and through our Quarterly Newsletter.
  • The most important benefit of joining the program however, is the opportunity to change the way our oceans are fished, via consumer education and choice and telling your customers about the great work you are doing in sustainable seafood sourcing. Chefs are in a strategic position for influencing consumer choice, as people look to them for trends in food. As fisheries are heavily influenced by consumer demand, joining the Ocean Wise team is a perfect opportunity to make a difference, and ensure that there is seafood in the oceans for generations to come.


How did the Ocean Wise program start?

The Vancouver Aquarium launched the concept of Ocean Wise in January 2005 at C Restaurant, our founding restaurant partner. The Ocean Wise program released its first Dining Guide on April 22nd 2005, Earth Day. A list of the first 16 restaurants was included on these rack cards. Each of these restaurants removed at least one item from their menu and committed to promoting at least one sustainable option.