How can I choose Sustainable seafood?
We know that we should be making smarter choices with our purchases that are sustainable. But how realistic is it to do this when the UK dietary guidelines state we should consume 2 portions of fish a week? Seafood is a fantastic source of protein and provides essential nutrients such as Vitamin D, Zinc and Omega-3 fats. But recent news stories and documentaries highlight the potential issues that the fishing industry can face.
On average, UK adults do not eat 2 portions of fish a week and on a global scale, fish consumption has doubled over since 1961 contributing to the pressure that our oceans face. Fishing can be sustainable if properly managed, allowing for fish stocks to recover and stay at a healthy level to support those who depend on the sea and provide enough food for our marine life.
Consuming a variety of sea food can be one way to eat sustainably. As a nation, 80% of the seafood we consume comes from the same 5 species: Cod, Haddock, Salmon, Tuna and Prawns. It’s okay to eat these, but there are ways we can all make sustainable choices and increase our variety of seafood which as we know, can provide a wider range of vitamins and minerals.
Suggestions on making a more sustainable choice in your seafood selection include eating rope-grown mussels as these are considered one of the most sustainable choices you can make as mussels clean the water as they develop. A swap for our beloved cod at the local chippy could be choosing hake which is similar in texture. Instead of tuna, why not try mackerel, which is high in omega-3s that support our brain and heart health. When choosing salmon, we should look out for ‘aquaculture stewardship council (ASC)’ labels as stocks of Atlantic wild salmon are poor. An alternative could be rainbow trout or dover sole to try something tasty and different.
A clear way to shop sustainably is to look out for eco-labels. A popular one is the ‘Marine Stewardship Council (MSC)’ which is blue and white with a fish on. This is one of the largest international certification programmes in the seafood industry and have strict requirements for sustainable fishing. They have produced a ‘good fish guide’ with a traffic light system from green (good choice) to red (fish to avoid) and provides information on how and where the species has been caught or farmed. Delving deeper into how your fish is caught e.g using pole and line fishing over netting or dredging and supporting local fisheries or small-owned fishmongers can be a more environmentally friendly option.
However there has been some controversy over how ethical the MSC certification is. Concerns over misleading labelling were raised earlier this year and that consumers are being misled, believing that the label shows that the fish stocks is currently well managed and sourced in a nature-friendly way which may not be the reality. Other issues raised come from how the company funds themselves and an investigation into their waste management from the fishing industry is hard to find. The ‘ocean clean’ up found that 46% of ocean plastic waste comes from fishing equipment. Overall, we should aim to choose more sustainable fish varieties and support local businesses where possible.