Sustainable Seafood Week (March 8 - 14) is the perfect time to start a commitment to making sustainable food choices.
As a marine biologist, I have spent the last 24 years working with the fishing industry and with governments in an effort to reduce the environmental impacts of the fishing vessels and farms that harvest the seafood you serve to your friends and families.
Occasionally I think about the time, not so long ago, when this work would have been considered unnecessary – when it was believed the seas were inexhaustible. The oceans were once teaming with life, and our human touch on the marine environment was light.
Since then, fishing fleets have grown bigger. As have fishing vessels, their storage hulls, their engines and their nets and other fishing gear. Today’s industry can fish harder and further than ever before.
The result? Today, over 33% of the world’s fish stocks are overfished, according to the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, meaning we are harvesting fish faster than they can reproduce. Using the same metric, around 66% of fish stocks are fished to their biological limits, which means that any additional fishing pressure will result in more overfishing.
This situation is alarming, especially as demand for seafood continues to grow in many developing economies. Some people may ask: “Who is to blame? Who do we prosecute?” Rather than assigning blame, I think we should focus on forward looking solutions. I want to build a world where people work together to ensure there is enough seafood to meet everyone’s needs, forever. In other words: How can we do better? And who do we need to work with to make this happen?
Sustainable Seafood Week is the perfect time to start making a commitment to make sustainable choices that to allow us to keep eating seafood while also protecting our precious marine environments. Here’s what you can do:
1. Buy certified sustainable seafood.
WWF supports the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) and Aquaculture Stewardship Council (ASC) standards for best practice in fishing and seafood farming respectively. By making the choice to buy and eat seafood that has been harvested and produced to the highest sustainability standards, you contribute to the long-term health of our oceans. You can tell which fishing and farming companies comply with these standards by looking for the MSC or ASC logo on their packaging. Learn more about the MSC and ASC standards here.
2. Support seafood retailers and brands that supply certified seafood.
The businesses that buy seafood – big or small – have both an opportunity and obligation to source and promote sustainable seafood. Businesses that specify and source seafood certified by MSC or ASC play a key role in encouraging more fishers and seafood farmers to operate sustainably. Tell your favourite grocer and restaurants that you prefer certified sustainable seafood. Adding your voice to the call will encourage others to follow suit.
Since 2011, WWF-Australia has worked with several companies that made ambitious commitments to source sustainable seafood. Our partnership with John West Australia resulted in over 95% of its canned tuna being MSC certified – the largest volume of MSC tuna on the market globally and in Australia. Our new partnership with Woolworths will help Australia’s largest retail grocery to ensure that all their products are either certified by MSC or ASC or independently verified as environmentally responsible. Our work with Tasmanian salmon farmers has resulted in the two biggest producers – Tassal and Huon – meeting the ASC salmon standard.
3. Ask your elected representatives in government to support more sustainable fisheries and marine planning.
While we continue to support voluntary best practice, as long as it is independently verified, Government also has a key role to play by establishing the laws and policies that industry must comply with. Although it should be obvious that bountiful seafood cannot continue to be supplied if ecosystems are in poor health, Governments are under constant pressure on maximise short term economic gains, which all too often means sacrificing environmental values. WWF works closely with regulators to help develop sustainable fisheries management and marine planning, which is good for the environment and for fishers and seafood farmers too.
4. Be a conscious consumer.
That’s right, YOU! When you buy seafood, you hold the power! You have the ability to vote for and support sustainable fishers and farmers. You have the ability to patronise the businesses that are encouraging better practices and reward them by buying certified sustainable products. So look for the MSC and ASC logos and, if you can’t find them – Ask the store or restaurant manager and put your questions on social media. Tell companies you care and that you prefer sustainably produced food! Individually we can contribute to a big change! #seathefuture
Learn more about WWF-Australia’s work in sustainable farmed and wild seafood.