Years ago my friend and I were getting fish and chips. We were on the South Coast, NSW, Australia. I remember her telling me she was going to buy and eat blackfish because it was locally caught and a sustainable option. “Good for you”, I thought. I bought the blackfish too and since then I have had it every time I go to that takeaway place.
As for the rest of the seafood I eat, I have been really slack lately. I know overfishing is a huge problem. I teach my students that. I know conserving fish species is really important to help protect marine ecosystems. I am awesome at drawing food webs and I teach my students to consider the impact of a changing one species population number on the rest of the food web.
Unfortunately I have let convenience and price determine what seafood I buy. I have pushed seafood sustainability to the back of my mind. I want my canned tuna and I want it now! But that is going to change. I need to change it.
Well over 30% of global fish populations are overfished. Some fishing practices are really dodgy too, like the ones that involve bycatch (this means other marine animals may be caught, apart from just the species intended to be fished.) There are 17 different ocean fishing zones around the world. Every single one of them is over exploited. 13 of them are becoming or are already depleted. There are certain types of fish that everyone seems intent on only eating – tuna, salmon, shark and prawns. We don’t actually intend to eat shark but when we buy fish and chips it is normally what is served up.
Australia’s fishing industry is actually pretty good. It’s regulation and management makes it one of the best in the world. Awesome, go Australia! But 70% of the seafood we buy is imported, mostly from Asia. I know I currently buy all of my seafood at the supermarket (shame!). If you look at the signs on the chilled fish at the counter it tells you where the fish came from. Some of it is from Australia but a lot of it comes from Vietnam, China etc. I bet it would really difficult to find a frozen, processed or canned seafood product in the supermarket that contains seafood from Australia.
Do you think this sounds bad too? Are you wondering what we can do? Well I am no expert and I am not going to tell you what to do, but I will tell you what I am personally going to do.
I am going to stop eating seafood.
Just kidding. I’m not going to stop because when I eat seafood it makes me think that I’m healthy and I don’t feel as bad for eating a block of chocolate. Go Omega 3!
I know I should stop eating seafood because the reality is that seafood is not a sustainable food option at all, but I am going to take baby steps. Here are some things I am prepared to do as of now:
- If I buy a can of tuna I’m going to look for skipjack tuna because it is a less exploited species. I am going to avoid yellow fin tuna. I’m going to look for pole and line caught tuna and something that says FAD free on the can. (FAD = fish aggregating device).
- I’m going to try to eat more local seafood and less important seafood. For me this means looking for Australian seafood.
- If I’m getting fish and chips, or eating at a restaurant, I’m going to choose more sustainable choices. I hear whiting, silver perch, sardines, flathead and barramundi are good options. If the seafood isn’t labelled I am going to ask what is it and where it came from. I am going to avoid eating flake (shark).
- I am going to use the Australian Sustainable Seafood Guide app to help me make better choices.
I know I am just one individual (one little fish in the big ocean), but if we all start making more informed decisions when buying seafood we can send a message. To the supermarkets, to the restaurants, to the wholesalers etc. Also, I am a role model and I can educate Bub. Bub is going to be Prime Minister and change the world. Overfishing will be the first problem she solves. No pressure Bub.