You love seafood because its available in so many varieties and tastes. It’s not only ultra trendy but also the healthy choice. Low in the bad fats and high in good ones, it is seen as the ultimate natural option and an apparently guilt-free choice for the health conscious and discerning foody. Or is it?Deep Deep TroubleOur marine ecosystems are under pressure. A recently published report on the state of the world’s fisheries by the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organisation’s (FAO), estimated that approximately 85% of the world’s fisheries are fished at (53%) or beyond (32%) their maximum sustainable limits. Furthermore, because no fishing gear is completely selective, many non-target fish or endangered species are accidentally caught as bycatch. In addition to this, the percentage of depleted stocks together with the demand for seafood is at a record high. Locally, many of our commercially valuable inshore marine resources remain heavily depleted despite the fact that, in 2000, the minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism declared the linefish resource to be in a State of Emergency.
Research shows that where responsible management is in place, fisheries are either healthy or recovering; despite this however, unsustainable and irresponsible fishing practices continue to modify some marine ecosystems. Many participants in the fishing industry do act responsibly, and market-driven incentives should be created for others to follow suite, but in the meantime our marine resources continue to diminish. It has subsequently become abundantly clear that different management strategies are necessary for the sustainable use of our marine resources.
With seafood as the most traded primary commodity in the world, developing a sustainable seafood industry goes far beyond focusing on the individual components of sustainable fishing. It requires a holistic approach, addressing all aspects along the seafood chain of custody, from the fisherman’s hook to the consumer’s plate. The bottom line is, not all seafood is equal, and your decision can help create an incentive for responsible and sustainable fishing practices. If we want to maintain the many choices of seafood that we love, keep the oceans healthy, and sustain the livelihoods that depend on this, we need to make smarter seafood choices now.
SASSI provides guidelines to help you make better choicesTo help you make informed seafood choices, WWF SASSI has compiled a seafood guide to facilitate choices that are better for the environment. The list, drafted in early 2005 and revised in 2010, aims to increase the awareness of seafood consumers around different species of fish, deter them from choosing illegal species, and guide them towards more ecologically sound choices when faced with a selection of different species. Through an easy-to-use ‘traffic light’ system, consumers can now know which seafood species can be consumed with a clear conscience (green), which should be regarded with concern because of specified reasons (orange), and which are considered unsustainable or illegal to sell in South Africa (red). The detailed list, based on robust and defensible information captured in an internationally accepted methodology, encourages you to always ask three simple questions of your seafood: What is it called? Where is from? How was it caught or farmed?
This information is further expanded upon through the SASSI website and mobi site. Additionally, the FishMS service brings the list to you via an SMS; by texting the name of the fish to the number 079-499-8795, the service will send you an immediate response advising whether to tuck in, think twice or avoid completely.