Sustainable fishing is the only method of harvesting protein rich aquatic creatures. Other fishing methods put our oceans and health at risk.
There are two main factors that affect our ability to sustain oceanic fish populations: a) the health of the population, thus the rate at which they can renew themselves and b) the method of catching fish, which can be destructive to the sea floor (when bottom trawling), or indiscriminate to different species (when pair trawling). Greenpeace have actively campaigned to protect dolphins from this unduly slaughter. Furthermore the lack of widespread and well known labelling on seafood produce means the consumer is left largely clueless on which products are green and which are not.
A marine equivalent of the well established sustainable timber campaigner FSC (Forest Stewardship Council) is called the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC). The MSC has a set of standards relating to the environmental impact of fisheries and the ‘chain of custody’ or traceability of MSC marked products. However this five year third-party certificate is not endorsed by Greenpeace, who, together with many other campaign groups are working to bring up the standards set by MSC to ensure the attainment of truly sustainable levels.
Conflicting messages are coming from the Food Standards Agency (FSA) who recommend that ‘everyone should eat at least two portions of fish a week, including one portion of oily fish’ which, extended to the total world population, is not sustainable. As a conscious consumer you can find lists of “endangered” fish on the internet. The fish to stay away from in the supermarkets include atlantic cod, tuna and haddock. Fortunately there is a natural remedy that will help you meet the FSA recommendations. Walnuts have the same oils and nutrients as fish and their harvesting is not as hard hitting on the environment.
One catchy alternative is local aquaponic enterprises, where fish is sustainably farmed on land, for a local area also enabling allowing for a “fresh” daily catch, far superior in taste and in footprint measurements than that of a fish towed in from the other side of the world.
Though lets not forget that sustainable fishing means we can continue to enjoy responsibly sourced seafood. For those that want all their purchases to be equaly green fishonline.org offers a comprehensive buyer’s guide. You can search by fish name for details of where and how the fish is caught and a sustainability rating from a happy 1, to a worrying 5. You can also check out the lists which give the green lights for the fish to eat and red lights for those to avoid. In commerce Marks and Spencer’s are to be noted for their leading role in the market. With 10 years of sustainable fishing behind them they are the UK’s first organization to sign the WWF Sustainable Seafood Charter. The agreement is all encompassing including clauses for the procurement of 100% sustainable product, through to policy and even keeping the customers informed.
The key message is to be aware and active in seeking out the information that will let you know whether the particular fish species is being exploited or not. When you have a particular recipe in mind a compromise can be reached with other fish (which are suggested by the fishonline guide) or another dish, for example using walnuts.
There are responsible companies out there, and awareness is growing. We as consumers or entrepreneurs we just need to develop a widely accepted hallmark or local sustainable fish farm to raise public awareness and promote sustainable business models for fisheries and retailers of fish.