Anyone who has tried to be an eco-conscious seafood consumer - or seen headlines about plummeting wild fish stocks or antibiotic-laden seafood from farms in China - as faced these questions.
There are many more. Take farms, whether inland or in the ocean. So much depends on the particular operation. Are antibiotics used to fight disease in overcrowded pens? What's the feed made from, and is too much provided? How much waste do the fish create? Are the currents strong enough to disperse all of that? What is the ocean floor like? Are the fish native?
"With fish, people come in and debate," said TJ Tate, director of the Sustainable Seafood Program at the National Aquarium in Baltimore. "Consumers want to see a tag, a label, a box, something they can feel confident about, and grab it and go."
"A lot of labels are private or secretive or changing or flexible," said Marianne Cufone, executive director of the Recirculating Farms Coalition. Some are more respected than others, and it's hard for the average consumer to know the difference. While Canada and the EU have organic seafood standards, the U.S. does not.
Now, entrepreneurs, investors, and some environmentalists are beginning to coalesce around aquaculture as a potential long-term solution to the depletion of the oceans and the world's increasing appetite for this healthy protein. A 2016 report from the United Nations found that 31.4 percent of the world's stocks were overfished and another 58.1 percent fully fished. Meanwhile, aquaculture surpassed wild-caught fish as a source of seafood for human consumption in 2014. Many see it as the next frontier in sustainable food production.
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