Tips for making sustainable seafood choices
Here in Queensland (and pretty much all over the country) seafood plays a central role of our culture and eating habits. The saying “shrimp on the barbie” didn’t come from nowhere. From classic fish & chips by the beach to fine dining restaurants offering extravagant seafood platters – seafood is an Aussie favourite.
Sustainability is a huge topic these days, how can we choose the best seafood for the environment? Put simply, ‘sustainable seafood’ is fish or shellfish that reaches our plates with minimal impact upon fish populations or the wider marine environment. It’s not just the numbers of fish left in the ocean that matters, it’s the way in which the fish are caught, the impact on the seafloor, other marine wildlife and how fishing affects the healthy and natural functioning of marine ecosystems. In this post, we share some basic tips for making sustainable seafood choices.
Diversify your choice & switch your fish!
Populations of popular seafood species such as Shark (Flake), Tuna and Swordfish have been reduced to only 10% of what they were in the 1950s. Try something different, eat lower on the food chain (these fish regenerate more quickly) and give the popular species a break to preserve the balance of the ocean and ensure that future generations can enjoy them too.
Quick tip #1: Avoid long lived or slow growing species.
In Australia, country of origin labeling is now legally required for seafood products, but there’s still a lot missing from labels, such as fishing and farming method and standardised species names. Be a savvy shopper, ask questions and use Switch Your Fish to make a more informed decision.
Quick tip #2: Avoid deep sea (caught below 500m) species – they often take decades to reach breeding age
Did you know that a whopping 72% of the seafood Aussies eat is imported? Cheap imports are often fished and farmed without the same regulation, which adds to the environmental pressure placed on our oceans. Support local communities and sustainable fisheries where possible and if you are buying fish from overseas look for accreditation logos (i.e. MSC) and sustainable fish species.
Quick tip #3: Avoid imported fish, eg smoked cod, (it’s often impossible to tell where this is sourced from).
Buy fresh & reduce plastic pollution
According to Environment Victoria, Aussies dispose of 1.9 million tonnes of plastic packaging every year – that’s enough to fill the Melbourne Cricket Guides over 9 times! A gigantic plastic soup twice the size of France, containing over 100 million tonnes of waste has now formed in the Pacific Ocean and more than one million birds and marine animals die each year from consuming or becoming caught in plastic and other debris. Buy fresh to avoid unnecessary packaging. Fresh seafood will have been caught closer to where it is sold and thus have traveled a shorter distance to reach your plate.
Quick tip #4: Avoid sharks and rays (many species are slow growing and very overfished)
Have a read of the AMCS sustainable fish guide to learn more. It’s a great resource for getting information on different fish species. It’s uses identification tools such as Green- better (choice), orange-think twice and red- say no as a quick user friendly guide to head you in the right direction.