Sustainable seafood: Still plenty of fish in the sea?

So far at www.consumewithcare.org we have focused on the plight of land-based animals affected by our consumer habits but in this blog we turn our attention to the topic of sustainable seafood.

What is the problem?

Decades of overfishing, destructive fishing practices and mismanagement of the world’s fish stocks have resulted in the depletion of many fish and marine species. Alarmingly, around 80% of global fish stocks are now over-exploited or being fished to their limits. As a consequence, marine ecosystems as well as the food supply and livelihood of millions of people around the world are being severely threatened.

There are also the issues surrounding fish farming, a.k.a. aquaculture. While once thought to be the solution to overfishing and depleting fish stocks, aquaculture has it’s own sustainability issues. These include the need for large amounts of fish in order to feed the fish in fish farms as well as the high incidence of disease due to overcrowding, the risk of fish escaping and interbreeding with wild populations and reduced water quality resulting from the accumulation of faecal waste.

What is the solution?

Sustainable seafood is about avoiding or at least limiting our consumption of threatened marine species and switching to more sustainable fishing methods which do not deplete fish stocks and limit bycatch (unwanted marine life caught when fishing, such as sharks, dolphins, turtles, seals and marine birds).  Improving aquaculture techniques in order to lessen the environmental impact is also important.

Working out which seafood is actually sustainable can be rather complicated but a fantastic website called GoodFishBadFish (www.goodfishbadfish.com.au) provides these three simple tips for sustainable seafood consumption:

1. Buy local

That is, seafood labeled product of Australia.

2. Buy fresh

For taste and health.

3. Diversify your choice

Try something new and spread the impacts of fishing pressures.

There are also a number of handy guides to help consumers make the right choices. Following is a list of those we found most useful:

The Sustainable Seafood Guide (www.sustainableseafood.org)

Produced by the Australian Marine Conservation Society the Sustainable Seafood Guide and free app classifies species into 3 categories: Say No, Think Twice or Better Choice.

The Canned Tuna Guide (www.greenpeace.org/australia/en/what-we-do/oceans/Take-action/canned-tuna-guide/)

Produced by Greenpeace the Canned Tuna Guide ranks all brands of canned tuna available in Australian supermarkets from good to bad.

Seafood Converter (www.goodfishbadfish.com.au)

The GoodFishBadFish website provides suggestions for substituting less sustainable choices with more sustainable alternatives.

We’ve rattled on in the past about the need for mindful meat eating and likewise, we all need to become more mindful about our consumption of seafood. It is up to us as individuals to make more conscious, more sustainable choices in order to preserve the bounty found in our oceans for now and in the future.



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