Chapter 21 preface: Greenpeace International seafood red list

The Greenpeace International Seafood Red List

The Greenpeace International Seafood Red List is a list of fish that are commonly sold in supermarkets around the world, and which have a very high risk of being sourced from unsustainable fisheries. The current list is

  • Atlantic cod
  • Haddock
  • Tuna
  • Atlantic halibut
  • Hake
  • Atlantic salmon
  • Sole
  • Swordfish
  • Sharks
  • Eels
  • Anglefish
  • Greenland halibut
  • Hoki
  • Marlin
  • European Plaice
  • Red fish
  • Orange roughy
  • Tropical shrimp
  • Skates and rays
  • Patagonian toothfish

The fish species are on this list for one or more of the following reasons:

  • They have a life history that makes them very vulnerable to fishing
  • They are commonly sourced from overfished and depleted stocks, or are being fished at such a high rate that stocks are being depleted rapidly
  • The fishing methods used to catch the fish are often highly destructive to other oceans creatures and/or habitats.

The Greenpeace ‘Red-Grade’ Criteria for Unsustainable Fisheries provides more detail and background information for the assessment criteria used by Greenpeace scientists, and can be downloaded by clicking on the links on the bottom of this page.
For some of the species listed, there might be a few stocks that are not yet overfished, that are caught with more sustainable fishing methods, and would therefore not be graded red. Same is true for some aquaculture farms. This can be explored by applying the Greenpeace ‘Red-Grade’ Criteria to that particular fishery/farm.

Does this mean that everything not on this red list is sustainable?

No. There are many other types of fish and seafood that are from unsustainable fisheries. The ones on the Greenpeace International seafood red list are the most commonly sold species that supermarkets need to take urgent action on to ensure the future of these species and the fisheries. As seafood markets and consumer preferences for seafood differ from country to country there are specific Greenpeace Seafood Red Lists for many countries.
The ‘Red-Grade’ Criteria for unsustainable fisheries questions:

  • Does this fishery target species that are listed on as having ‘very low resilience’ and/or ‘high to very high vulnerability’?
  • Does this fishery target species in sensitive deep-water habitats (hydrothermal vents, cold seeps, coldwater coral reefs, seamounts, or canyons)?
  • Does this fishery use any one of the following methods: explosives or poisons, demersal otter trawl, beam trawl, or dredge?
  • Has the body responsible for managing this fishery disregarded scientific advice for zero catch or fishery closures?
  • Is the current adult stock level considered to be so low that there is a risk that the population may struggle to maintain itself?
  • Is there a high risk that the most recently reported fishing rate will cause, or is causing, a decline in the stock in the short to medium term AND has the management failed to address this according to scientific advice in the latest quotas?
  • Does this fishery use an indiscriminate fishing practice that results in 25% or greater by weight of the catch of fish and cephalopods being discarded?
  • Does this fishery use an indiscriminate fishing practice that results in 25% or greater by weight of the catch that is landed being composed of juveniles or unmarketable species?
  • Is this fishery associated with adverse impacts on populations of non-target species classified on domestic or international conservation lists as threatened, endangered, critically endangered or protected species OR is listed as a moratorium species?
  • Is this fishery responsible or partly responsible for ecosystem alteration though cascade effects?
  • Do any of the following statements apply to the supplier of fish from this fishery?
  • · Fish cannot be traced fish back to the fishing vessel
    · The vessel and/or operators are blacklisted
    · Transshipments at sea occur without 100% independent observer coverage

This material is excerpted from the Greenpeace web site at