Farmed oysters are a tasty and sustainable choice.

Farmed oysters are a tasty and sustainable choice.

When you drive over the causeway and arrive on Sanibel, there is a sign that reads “Welcome to our Sanctuary Island – Please Enjoy, Don’t Destroy.” With its thousands of acres of wildlife refuge, pristine beaches, and blue-green waters, Sanibel is home to a community of people who care deeply about preserving and caring for the natural environment. We stop our cars to let gopher tortoises cross the road, we protect nesting birds on our beaches, and we buy local, organic produce and other culinary delights at the farmer’s market (which opened last weekend, much to our excitement).

With Sanibel’s natural beauty and fresh, local food in mind, we thought this would be a great opportunity to discuss another tasty treat that many Sanibel locals and visitors enjoy – seafood. Specifically, sustainable seafood, and how we can all help to protect our beloved Gulf of Mexico by giving a little more thought to the fish we eat. October also happens to be National Seafood Month, so the timing couldn’t be better.

It’s old news that many species of fish in our oceans are declining due to overfishing (which occurs when fish and other marine species are caught by humans faster than they can reproduce), but what you may not know is how easy it is for you to help solve the problem. As a consumer, you are presented with choices about which seafood to buy each time you go to the store. With a simple conversation or the swipe of a credit card, you can send a strong message to retailers that you won’t eat species that are in danger of becoming extinct.

So equip yourself with knowledge, available in the form of a Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch card (pick one up at Sanibel Sea School, or you can download their smartphone app), then ask your seafood purveyor (whether it’s a waiter or the guy behind the seafood counter) for Greenlisted species like oysters, pole-caught mahi-mahi, or farmed scallops (cobia is also an increasingly common sustainable option in Florida). As a general rule, smaller, locally harvested species are best from both a health and environmental perspective. Request more sustainable options, and if they’re selling at-risk species, vote with your dollar and shop or eat elsewhere.

In partnership with Seafood Watch and Sanibel Sea School, Solutions to Avoid Red Tide (START) is leading an effort called Seafood Savvy to make sustainable seafood options more widely available at local Sanibel restaurants and businesses, but in order to be successful, our community must work together. We ask that you take a few minutes to think about your seafood consumption, and engage in dialogue with friends, family, and retailers on the topic. With your help, we can make sure future generations can enjoy our ocean and the delicious seafood it produces for years to come. For more information, please comment below or contact