Why Is Sustainable Seafood Important?

Sustainable seafood is a term that we’ve been hearing a lot more about in the last 5 - 10 years, as the discussion about environmental footprints and resource consumption becomes more and more prominent in the popular consciousness. Sustainable seafood is something that is very close to our hearts here at Cannings, but you might be wondering - why is sustainable seafood so important? After all - there are plenty of fish in the sea! Or are there?
Why Is Sustainable Seafood Important?

What is sustainable seafood?

Sustainable seafood is seafood sourced from well managed, healthy fish populations, harvested with minimal impact on the marine environment. This can include both farmed and wild caught seafood and considers:

  • Impact of fishing for a species on other surrounding marine life (e.g. does the fishing method have a high level of by-catch or damage ecosystems on the seafloor). Sustainable seafood selects target fish carefully and leaves fish behind to replenish stocks.
  • Stock levels of this species in the ocean
  • Sustainable species tend to be fast growing and highly productive
  • Sustainable aquaculture operations also must consider their impact on the surrounding environments and species where they are farmed, as well as the ‘fish in to fish out’ ratio (e.g. not relying on wild caught or vulnerable seafood species for feed).

    Why is sustainable seafood important?

    One of the reasons that it’s so important to fish from healthy populations is that when a population is overfished, too many adults of one species are taken from the ocean and thus there are not enough left to breed and maintain the population. According to the AMCS “overfishing of once abundant species has led to some species being listed as threatened, such as gulper and school sharks, because they have been fished too hard for too long”, and “collapse will ultimately occur if overfishing is prolonged over time. A government analysis indicates that 17.5% of Australian fish stocks are overfished or are being fished too heavily, and the status of 16.5% is not known.” Like everything in the natural world, our oceans are not an endless resource, and if we want to ensure an abundance of fish for the future we must take action now by fishing and eating responsibly.

    Some common vulnerable populations to eat less of (at the time of publishing in April 2022) include:

    • Flake - did you know this fish and chip shop favourite is often used as an umbrella term for various shark species and commonly includes endangered species? The AMCS currently encourages Australians to “take a break from flake” - sounds like a great reason to go for some sustainably sourced barra instead! Yum.
    • Tuna - although there is some amber rated (eat less) tuna available on the market, many tuna species at home and abroad are currently red rated (say no). Southern bluefin tuna, for example, “is a critically endangered species, with population numbers down to around 5% of original fish biomass” and many other tuna populations are being fished at an unsustainable rate or using methods that negatively impact other species such as sharks.
    • Tasmanian Atlantic Salmon - in recent years, major welfare and environmental concerns have emerged around the Tasmanian farmed salmon industry, including environmental damages, low oxygen and dead zones in an area surrounding a world heritage site, disease in the farmed populations, coupled with fish escapes that can compromise wild fish populations. According to the AMCS, the amount of wild fish used to feed Tassie farmed salmon is also currently higher than the output of salmon, resulting in a net burden on our wild fisheries.

      How do I know my seafood is sustainably sourced?

      Cannings works closely with the AMCS Good Fish Project to ensure that all of our seafood is sustainably sourced. We have an ongoing pledge to source only green rated (better choice) seafood as designated by the AMCS Good Fish Sustainable Seafood Guide, which means any seafood you buy from us is classified as sustainable. We review our sourcing regularly to ensure we stay in line with the current advice of the Good Fish Project - we know that when it comes to fish populations, things can change for better or worse over time so we source in line with this.

      How can I determine if my seafood is sustainable when I shop outside of Cannings?

      The Good Fish Sustainable Seafood Guide is an amazing resource you can use to determine how sustainable your seafood is. https://goodfish.org.au/

      Simply pop in the species you’re looking at and the guide will give you a list of varieties with their associated sustainability ratings, as well as an explainer on the reasons behind the rating. Unfortunately it’s quite common in the seafood industry for sourcing locations to be a bit murky, so when you shop for seafood, look for restaurants and retailers that are open about where their seafood is sourced from. If you’re dining out, the Good Fish website also has a section for sustainable seafood restaurants, which is a great resource to help you dine sustainably! https://goodfish.org.au/sustainable-seafood-restaurants/

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