It’s a jungle in the sea! Mercury, plastic, overfishing – it’s hard to know what fish to eat – if any! Here are some tips on what to look for, when asking yourself: how do I know whether I’m buying sustainable seafood?
“Fish is good for you” – most of us have heard this – all of our lives. But lately, it’s becoming harder and less transparent to know whether we should be eating fish and if so, what type of fish are actually okay to eat.
DOES SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD EXIST?
Alistair Douglas is founder and partner of EcoHub, an initiative who use data to improve the sustainability and responsibility in seafood supply chains, and if anyone, he can help us uncover the truth to whether it’s possible to get sustainable seafood today. The answer is reassuring:
“Yes, it is possible. A number are certified by a third party, and a number are sustainable even though they are not certified”, Alistair Douglas states.
EAT FROM SEA OR LAND?
However, if you worry about all the talk about antibiotics and chemicals, here is another thing you might not know. Because according to Alistair Douglas, you should probably be more concerned about the food we get from land, than our sea, AND not just eat the fish, but eat the even healthier seaweed!:
The energy inputs to grow fish and seafood are far less than for terrestrial equivalents. Because of the buoyancy environment, fish grow more muscle and less skeleton, plants in the sea like kelp don’t need to invest energy into a stalk or a trunk and can grow at one meter a day! By far and away seaweeds are one the healthiest options for us and for the planet.
Even wiser, and so far, so good. Now the questions is, how we navigate, and how we really know whether the seafood we have bought is indeed sustainable.
HOW TO FIND SUSTAINABLE SEAFOOD
Alistair Douglas, who has developed a quality grading technique and traceability system for tuna when doing his PhD in Japan, says that the fishery needs to be sustainable and responsible in terms of what fish species they target and how the habitat and the people that harvest the seafood are protected. He does recognize that information on the above is rarely available, but using guides such as Seafood Watch and WWF (see below) can be of help. He also points to EcoLabels such as MSC/ASC or BAP.
WWF have released a guide to seafood in Singapore, where they also recommend that you chose seafood from recommended stocks that are well, managed and not over-exploited.
According to WWF and Alistair Douglas, these are the logos to look out for:
The certifications distinguish
between wild caught fish and farmed fish. When certified, WWF lists that seafood is sustainable when:
WILD CAUGHT FISH
Healthy stock levels of the seafood species
Fishing methods do not threaten the environment and other marine creatures
There are measures in place to prevent overfishing
Fish is reared in clean, irrigated waters
The farming facility does not pollute the surrounding environment
fish is not fed with fish fry caught from the wild, any artificial additives or antibiotics
BEST FISH TO EAT
Wild caught COD
Farmed ATLANTIC SALMON
Wild caught ALBACORE TUNA
Farmed RED TILAPIA from Malaysia, Indonesia and China
Wild caught ROCK LOBSTER from Australia
Wild caught SCALLOPS from Japan and China
Wild caught CHILEAN SEABASS from the South Ocean
Wild caught WHITE CLAMS/BEN TRE CLAMS OR LALA from Vietnam
Farmed VANNAMEI PRAWN, or whiteleg shrimp, pacific whiteleg, grey shrimp PRAWN from Vietnam
GREEN LIP MUSSEL/ASIAN GREEN MUSSEL from New Zealand/Pacific Southwest
PACIFIC OYSTER from Northwest Pacifc/Eastern Pacific
SEA CUCUMBER from China, Japan, Pacific Northwest
See the rest of WWF’s seafood guide on what seafood to consider and to avoid HERE
We are a lot wiser now, but as the sea and fishing situation is of course changing always, so will these guides. According to Andrew Douglas, it’s therefore more important than ever, to take responsibility for what happens outside of the sea:
“All EcoLabels are not equal but a step in the right direction. I think it is important to remember that almost all of the pollution that is in the sea emanates from the land, from our cities and our farms. Reject plastic bags, buy a water bottle, don’t use straws or plastic cup holders etc.
And when asking Alistair Douglas what else we can do as consumers to help improve the situation for both farmed and wild caught seafood today, he encourages “questions”:
“Ask questions. Ask your service staff, the chef, the retailer if they know where the fish has come in. This will help create awareness of the issue which is the first step in the process of creating demand for better practices”
Ok, so we’ve had a lot of positive answers: We can buy sustainable fish, chances of it being healthier for you and the planet is higher than meat and we have a list of good fish to go by. Is it also, still so healthy as we have always been told? Another reassurance from Alistair Douglas:
I would say the evidence is an overwhelming, yes. The omega 3 fatty acids that seafood are one of the richest known sources have been shown in scientific studies to be of major benefit to the heart and the mind”
Thank you for that Alistair – now we can breathe out and check out Charlotte’s delicious