Defining sustainable seafood
Sustainable ‘wild-caught’ seafood is harvested from oceans, lakes and rivers, captured using highly selective and non-destructive methods of extraction, with minimal impact on fish stocks, marine habitats, sea life and ocean ecosystems. Sustainable, wild-caught seafood is best sourced from fast-growing species with high reproductive rates (squid).
Sustainable ‘farmed’ seafood is raised in controlled, natural environments or in small-scale, closed-loop containment aquaculture systems to internalize environmental costs. The extensive aquaculture model suits species capable of thriving at high densities. It is more efficient and sustainable to intensively farm herbivorous (scallop) and omnivorous (sardine) species than carnivorous species (salmon).
Sustainable sources of wild-caught fish
Sustainably sourced, mercury-safe wild Alaskan salmon is available from Vital Choice Wild Seafood & Organics in Washington State, USA. We must work hard to manage and protect sustainable fisheries located in pristine environments from overfishing and pollution, so they remain a source of high-quality protein for marine life and future human generations.
Other sustainable seafood products are available from Good Fish, an Australian-owned brand who sell ethical, sustainable and wild-caught tuna, salmon, mackerel and sardines, packaged in plastic-free tins and jars. Fish4Ever offer high-quality, sustainably sourced Wild Pacific Pink and Red Salmon, and 100% pole-and-line-caught Katsuwonus pelamis (Skipjack Tuna).
High-quality, superior-tasting tuna is available from Sirena, a 100% Australian-owned company with a commitment to sustainability and a Code of Ethical Sourcing. Their tuna is 100% pole-and-line-caught, “one fish at a time” (see Pole & Line Fishing under Solutions). Capturing Endangered or Threatened species of tuna is prohibited, as is the use of FADs and fishing by purse-seine (see Purse Seine Fishing, Tuna & Dolphin Mortality under Impacts). They are committed to safe, fair labour practices.
Sustainable seafood guides
The Sustainable Seafood Guide is an excellent resource for Australian consumers who want to make an informed choice about the seafood they eat and is available as an online app (for our UK subscribers, try the Marine Conservation Society’s Good Fish Guide app). The AMCS guide was developed by fisheries scientists, in response to widespread public concern about the environmental impacts of industrial fishing.
The Sustainable Seafood Guide assesses 99 common seafood species available in Australia, using current research and data to assess their sustainability status. The guide includes information on location of species, capture method, and whether it is farmed or wild-caught, imported or Australian. A classification system indicates which seafood is a ‘Better Choice’ (green), if we should ‘Eat Less’ of a species (orange), whether it is best to ‘Say No’ (red) or if a species is ‘Under Review’ (grey).
Good Fish connects responsible fishers and farmers with consumers who want sustainable seafood. AMCS partners with restaurants to develop a “sustainable seafood sourcing policy”, to transition away from unsustainable seafood and provide tools for chefs to make informed purchasing decisions about the seafood they serve in their establishments.
The Good Fish, Bad Fish project is an Australian initiative to assist consumers to make better seafood choices. The Seafood Converter is an online tool outlining information for each species, including their government stock assessment or overfishing status, extraction methods used in capture or harvest, preparation and cooking tips, and sustainable alternatives. The guide uses the AMCS classification system.
Get to know where your seafood comes from
As consumers, we can make informed choices about the seafood we eat and support business offering sustainable seafood. We have enormous power and influence when we choose to avoid endangered species of seafood, or seafood sourced from unsustainable fisheries.
We encourage you to ‘ask questions’ about where the seafood you eat comes from, whether it was caught by a regulated or illegal fishery, what kind of vessel and fishing gear was used, and how the fish was caught, extracted or harvested.
Do your own research and use your own judgment when it comes to making decisions about your seafood. If you don’t support the method used to catch a species, you don’t have to eat it. Stand up and say no. Put your money where your mouth is. If enough people refuse to buy unsustainable seafood, the industry will be forced to change.
Avoid eating seafood from overfished stocks. You can rely on the guides above or you can get technical and learn to read a research paper (it’s fun, we promise). A good place to start are the resources over at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organisation, especially their State of the World’s Fisheries and Aquaculture (SOFIA) reports published every four years.
Try different species from fisheries tracking at sustainable levels, where stocks are robust and well managed. Try freshwater species or local varieties, including wild-caught Australian Salmon or Australian Sardine (if you live on the island continent). Get to know the choices available where you live. Always try to make the best choice you can for the ocean.
The Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certifies sustainable fisheries and tuna products, including canned tuna. The Campaign for Eco-Safe Tuna is an international initiative working towards a sustainable model for tuna fishing. Seafood labelling is not a perfect system, but it helps us make better choices, and will only improve over time.
It is important for consumers to know what is going on at every stage of the supply chain, so demand transparency and seek out companies and fisheries that provide detailed information, so we can make more informed choices. Ensure your seafood comes from fisheries whose stock has been scientifically assessed as ‘sustainable’.
Sirena promote transparency on labelling, providing information to concerned consumers on where, when and how their tuna was caught. When you purchase Fish4Ever products, you can enter the barcode on the product into their website and track the source and journey of that product.
How much seafood do we need to eat?
Not more than 2-3 servings a week. Probably a lot less. The choice is yours.
Consider your specific nutritional needs, your ethics, your values, your location, availability of other protein sources, your socio-economic status and make the best choice available for you.
AMCS Good Fish, https://goodfish.org.au/about-the-guide/
AMCS Sustainable Seafood Guide, https://goodfish.org.au/sustainable-seafood-guide/
Campaign for Eco-safe Tuna, https://ecosafetuna.org
FAO SOFIA publications, https://www.fao.org/publications/sofia/en/
Good Fish, https://good-fish.com.au/
Good Fish, Bad Fish, https://goodfishbadfish.com.au/
Good Fish, Bad Fish Seafood Converter, https://goodfishbadfish.com.au/seafood-converter/
Marine Conservation Society UK, https://www.mcsuk.org/
Marine Stewardship Council, https://www.msc.org/
Sirena Tuna, https://sirena.com.au/
Vital Choice Wild Seafood & Organics, https://www.vitalchoice.com/