South African people love seafood, it is part of our heritage and contributes to the livelihoods of many. Over the years, seafood in South Africa has also become ultra-trendy as it is deemed the healthier choice, is high in omegas and low in bad fats. However, we find ourselves at the tipping point where the seafood we love to eat, if not used in a sustainable way, may disappear. Our oceans and the resources are under ever-increasing pressures from, not only overfishing, but also climate change and increasing user conflicts over our marine resources. What many people don’t realise is, as a seafood consumer, they in fact play a pivotal role in how our oceans are managed and protected. Consumers can use both their voices and their spending power to influence the seafood products that are sold in restaurants, retailers, hotels and wherever else seafood is offered.
This is the central theme of WWF Southern Africa’s South Africa Sustainable Seafood Initiative (SASSI). The SASSI programme is an easy reference traffic light system for consumers to use to help make better seafood choices. SASSI classifies seafood into either Green (Best Choice), Orange (Think Twice) or Red (Don’t Buy) based on what species it is, how it was caught or farmed and where it comes from. Together these factors determine the sustainability of the species. If consumers make informed choices, this will in turn create market incentives which will then drive retailers/suppliers to procure responsibly sourced seafood. The list is revisited every two years ensuring that consumers have relevant and up to date information at their disposal and the assessment process when establishing the list is robust, defensible and based on an internationally accepted methodology.
SASSI has gone on to develop a handy pocket card which lists the popular seafood species and their status as well as the free SASSI App (available for all devices) and the SASSI FishMS line
079 499 8795. 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. So when next you order or buy seafood, ask your fishmonger, waitron or restaurateur three simple questions:
1. What species is it?
2. Where is from?
3. How was it caught or farmed?